Animal Advocates Applaud Fitzpatrick Primate Bill

Jul 31, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) was recognized by the Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, the Jane Goodall Institute, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and International Fund for Animal Welfare for introducing the bipartisan Captive Primate Safety Act [HR 2856], and urge the bill’s swift passage.

The legislation amends the Lacey Act which enforces civil and criminal penalties for the illegal trade of animals and plants to now prohibit interstate commerce in monkeys, apes and other primates for the exotic pet trade. The bill is cosponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and was introduced Tuesday.

“Keeping primates as household pets is both inhumane to animals and dangerous to humans.  The dangers of keeping exotic ‘pets’ are illustrated by the more than 200 injuries to people by primates since 1999 and their potential to be a threat to public health,” said Fitzpatrick. “It’s for these reasons that I was proud to re-introduce the Captive Primate Safety Act along with my colleague Congressman Blumenauer- a common-sense reform which will keep primates out of the hands of private citizens.”

About half of states already prohibit private possession of some or all primate species as pets, but primates are easily obtained via the Internet and through out-of-state dealers and auctions, making a federal law necessary to support the efforts of state law enforcement and to promote global conservation efforts. Similar legislation cleared a Senate committee last year, but Congress adjourned before it could be enacted.

“The Captive Primate Safety Act is necessary, common-sense legislation for the welfare of animals and human safety,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “Private citizens are ill-equipped to properly care for these complex and intelligent animals, and law enforcement agencies expend countless hours and resources responding to the escapes, attacks and neglect cases that inevitably arise when primates are kept in private hands.”

Dangerous incidents involving captive primates this year such incidents include:

  • A pet patas monkey escaped through a car sunroof and ran loose for 30 minutes on a college campus in Virginia
  • A 6-year old Illinois boy bitten by a pet java macaque at a public park
  • A 2-year-old Florida girl and her mother attacked by two pet lemurs who escaped and ran wild through a Florida neighborhood, charging at neighbors and police
  • A Texas police officer attacked by a capuchin monkey as he handed a speeding ticket through an open truck window

“The captive primate trade involves enormous suffering and threats to human safety. These innocent animals are often confined in small cages and have their teeth extracted,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA.  “We can’t allow animals to be mutilated in the name of companionship. There is simply no excuse for keeping nonhuman primates as pets. Wildlife belongs in the wild.”

Infant monkeys used for the pet trade are typically forcibly removed from their mothers shortly after birth. As babies, they are in high demand, but people quickly discover that primates are extremely active, messy, destructive and have a tendency to bite. Ultimately, weary of attacks on people and destruction to the home, pet monkeys are often relegated to a life of increasing isolation, loneliness, frustration and neglect.

"Keeping a great ape or other primate as a pet is a dangerous practice equivalent to keeping a ticking time bomb,” added Jeff Flocken, North America regional director for IFAW.  “At the detriment of animal welfare, public safety and common-sense, these intelligent and highly dangerous animals are routinely exploited by the exotic pet trade. This needs to stop. We urge Congress to take action by passing the Captive Primate Safety Act."

Facts:

  • Since 1990, more than 270 people— including 86 children—have been injured by captive primates, and many more incidents likely went unreported. Primates also pose disease risks, including transmission of tuberculosis and herpes-B virus.
  • In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Captive Wildlife Safety Act into law to prohibit interstate commerce of lions, tigers, and other big cats as pets. Primates face similar inhumane treatment and pose similar threats to public health and safety and should be added to the list of species prohibited in commercial trade.
  • The Captive Primate Safety Act is narrowly crafted to target the commerce in and private possession of primates, and would not impact zoos, universities or wildlife sanctuaries.
  • The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society of Primatologists, and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians oppose the private possession of primates.

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Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is serving his third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents Pennsylvania’s 8th district which includes all of Bucks County as well as a portion of Montgomery County. He serves as the Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.