Even if well-intentioned, it’s not possible for owners to recreate the complex habitat—or freedom—that a wild animal enjoys in the wild.
In 2009, the story of Travis, a chimpanzee kept as a pet in a Connecticut home, made international news. Travis attacked and badly disfigured his owner’s friend and employee, Charla Nash. Responding law enforcement officers, unequipped to deal with a powerful wild animal, killed Travis shortly after the attack. Due to the severity of her injuries, Ms. Nash underwent a face transplant and was rendered blind. Since 1990, an estimated 300 people have been injured by non-human primates kept as pets. The actual figure is likely higher because some injuries go unreported.
Yet in the decade since this horrific incident, it remains legal to keep non-human primates as pets in much of the United States. Keeping these animals as pets is not only dangerous, it’s also cruel.
Non-Human Primates Can’t Thrive in Human Homes
Non-human primates are highly intelligent and have complex social structures. For example, chimpanzees live in family groups with sometimes as many as 50 or even 100 members. Capuchin monkeys, frequently exploited for film and television productions, live in groups ranging from 10 to 40 animals. Being isolated from their peers causes severe psychological damage. And while different species have different needs, non-human primates generally require large outdoor areas to explore with trees, perches, and bodies of water.
Even if well-intentioned, it’s not possible for owners to recreate the complex habitat — or freedom— that a wild animal enjoys in the wild.
Owning a Non-Human Primate is a Public Safety Risk
As the story of Travis illustrates, many non-human primates are powerful and can easily injure or kill humans. Law enforcement officials or animal control officers are generally not trained to deal with escaped animals or intervene when an animal is attacking.
Zoonotic disease is another concern. We share more than 90% of our DNA with non-human primates which means we share diseases more easily. Whether through bites, scratches, or just close contact, non-human primates can transfer serious viruses such as Herpes B, tuberculosis, and Ebola.
It Fuels the Cruel Pet Trade
To keep up with the demand for non-human primates as pets, babies are stolen from their mothers when they’re as young as a few days old. This practice threatens the survival of the species overall and causes tremendous suffering for both the mother and baby. Non-human primates develop deep bonds with their children. The mother is left to grieve the loss of her baby, and the baby is denied the mother-child relationship critical to normal physical and psychological development.