WASHINGTON -- March 16 -- The United States House of Representatives took an enormously positive step toward protecting both humans and wildlife when Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas 30) and Rob Simmons (R-Conn. 2) wisely introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act (H. R. 1329) today. The legislation would prohibit the interstate movement of chimpanzees, macaques, capuchins, and other primates if they are to be kept as pets.
I think we can safely say that there are at least 15,000 primates in private hands in the U.S., asserted Adam M. Roberts, vice president of Born Free USA, But since the trade is largely unregulated, it is virtually impossible to get a precise number. The Centers for Disease Control already restricts importation of primates as pets into the United States, but there is no corresponding federal regulation on movement of these animals between states.
Nonhuman primates do not make good pets. Roberts added, The desire to be close to exotic animals is understandable, but keeping primates as pets is simply unjustifiable. The risk to the animals themselves and the people who live near them is just too great. Wild animals belong in the wild.
Primates pose a potentially deadly threat because of the risk of disease transmission, including yellow fever, monkey pox, Ebola and Marburg virus, Foot and Mouth Disease, tuberculosis, and herpes-b. Beyond the latent diseases primates may carry, there is also remarkable danger in keeping these animals who may become aggressive as they get older. Papers across the country are riddled with horrifying stories of primate attacks, noted Dr. Kim Haddad, a practicing veterinarian and director of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition.
The Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition diligently tracks these cases -- http://www.cwapc.org -- and reports a disturbing minimum of 126 incidents involving primates in the past ten years. Dr. Haddad concluded: Since 1995, 68 adults and 29 children have been injured, 99 primates have escaped in 60 separate incidents, and 37 animals have had to be killed as a result. Congress must act immediately to protect primates and people across America.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, advocated swift passage of the bill. These animals are dangerous, they spread diseases, and they cannot be kept in private homes humanely. We applaud Representatives Johnson and Simmons for their leadership in introducing this important and timely legislation. We urge Congress to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act quickly before the next person is injured or killed by a pet primate.