American Veterinary Medical Association testifies against keeping primates as pets

Citing concerns about the spread of disease and injury, inhumane treatment of animals, and ecologic damage, Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, recently spoke before a House subcommittee on the dangers of private ownership of nonhuman primates by unlicensed individuals.

The House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans held a hearing March 11 on the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 2964). The legislation would amend the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, making chimpanzees, monkeys, and other nonhuman primates prohibited wildlife species, thus strictly limiting commerce in pet primates.

Persons or agencies licensed or registered by the government, such as zoos and research facilities, are exempt under the proposal.

Born Free USA and Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition estimate that more than 15,000 primates are privately owned in the United States.

Between 1995 and 2005, there were 132 injuries or escapes by primates in the United States, according to the coalition. Also, some 80 percent of health and behavioral issues pertaining to primates involve those kept as pets.

Dr. Golab told subcommittee members that the evidence is clear that primates kept as pets are unsafe. Not only are these animals a physical threat, they may also be a source of the herpes B virus and other zoonotic pathogens. “Make no mistake about it,” Dr. Golab, said, “nonhuman primates kept as pets—while cute and often very entertaining—can also pose serious injury risks for their human caretakers and other domestic animals.”

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2 Responses to “American Veterinary Medical Association testifies against keeping primates as pets”

  1. Nancy Says:

    Dr Golab’s testimony that nonhuman primates kept as pets pose serious health risks cannot be verified. According to the CDC, there has been NO disease transfer from pet nonhuman primates to humans in the USA. There are areas in India and Asia where nonhuman primates roam free and interact with humans on a daily basis, yet there has never been a disease outbreak in those areas either. I would be most interested in reading any literature backing up Dr Golab’s claims. As far as injuries and escapes go, I would think that 132 incidents in ten years is very low compared to the injuries and escapes from domestic and agricultural animals in that same time period. I feel a federal law banning the interstate travel of NHP based on disease transmission, injuries and escapes is unfounded. The interstate transfer of NHP is already regulated by all the states in the US. There is no need for federal laws in that respect.

  2. kittymowmow Says:

    Hi Nancy,

    I actually don’t know a lot about the details surrounding this issue. I was always under the impression that monkeys often carry diseases that can transfer to humans, but I suppose I should look into it more thoroughly.

    I do feel that federal laws about this would be excessive. Our society is too eager to use litigation and laws to deal with issues that could be handled better through other means.

    -Kitty Mowmow

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