Captive Primate Safety Act Would End the Cruel and Dangerous Primate Pet Trade

Child holding a primate.
Photo by HollanderX2

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) endorses yesterday’s reintroduction of the Captive Primate Safety Act (CPSA), which would end the cruel and dangerous pet primate trade in the United States. Nonhuman primates are highly intelligent and typically social wild animals who suffer enormously when kept as pets. They can also injure or spread disease to the people around them.

Sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), this bill would ban the private possession of nonhuman primates. The prohibition is narrowly focused on pet primates and exempts zoos, research labs, sanctuaries, and universities. Current owners would be grandfathered in and simply be required to register their animals to ensure that first responders and animal control officers are aware of the presence of wild animals in their communities.

“Primates are wild animals, not pets or playthings,” said Susan Millward, AWI’s CEO and executive director. “All too often, owners faced with the reality of an aggressive, active animal in their home will mutilate and isolate primates in an attempt to ‘tame’ them. As a result, these animals suffer permanent physical and mental trauma. The Captive Primate Safety Act would protect primates from this horrifying mistreatment.”

Primates’ needs are irreconcilable with the realities of captive life as pets. Even the most well-meaning owner cannot provide the special care, housing, diet, socialization, and maintenance that these animals require. Many captive primates spend their entire lives in relative isolation, compared to living in the wild in large social groups. They experience physical and psychological suffering when confronted with unrealistic expectations that they will behave like perfectly trained pets or even “little humans.”

Breeders generally sell primates as cute infants on the internet or through out-of-state dealers and auctions without disclosing that these baby animals have been forcibly removed from their mothers, often at only a few days old. As these animals reach sexual maturity, they become larger and more aggressive. They pose a serious threat to the people around them, as evidenced by the hundreds of reported injuries nationwide over the last few decades. Captive primates have mauled neighbors, turned on their owners, and endangered local police officers and emergency personnel, who must expend countless hours and resources responding to escapes, attacks, and cruelty cases.

Primates also pose a significant threat to public health because they can carry life-threatening diseases that are communicable to humans, including Ebola, tuberculosis, and the Herpes B virus.

“This measure protects both primates and people. Wild animals belong in the wild, not shackled and mistreated in someone’s backyard. Humans often are injured by wild animals kept as pets, because their deeply ingrained instincts resist domestication, causing them to be dangerously unpredictable pets. The Captive Primate Safety Act is about safety, but also basic humane behavior—ending exploitation of these human-like, highly intelligent, social animals,” said Blumenthal.

“Primates are not pets. Allowing these animals to be kept in private captivity is not just cruel. It puts our communities at tremendous risk as we have seen in horrific cases in Oregon and elsewhere. Enacting this bipartisan, common-sense proposal is long overdue to protect both primates and the public,” said Blumenauer.

“For far too long primates have been mistreated, exploited, and abused while also carrying deadly diseases which may endanger humans,” said Fitzpatrick. “As Co-Chair of the Animal Protection Caucus, I remain committed in working across the aisle to promote animal welfare, and I am proud to lead this critical bipartisan and bicameral legislation to prohibit the unlicensed, private possession of primates and put animal safety first.”

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
(202) 446-2128, [email protected]

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere: in agriculture, in commerce, in our communities, in research, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.