Keeping monkeys as pets: The AVMA just says no!
Increasingly, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is taking stands on animal welfare issues and I, for one, am gratified to see our professional organization acting in ways I believe are consistent with our larger mission as animal health professionals.
But safeguarding animal health and welfare doesn’t stop with household pets like dogs and cats, of course. One area in which the AVMA has held sway in recent weeks is in the issue brought about by those who would keep non-human primate keepers.
No, not the lab animal or zoo folks. These legitimate license-holders are exempt from the AVMA’s scrutiny on this one. Last month’s testimony to the House Committee of Natural Resources by Gail Golab of the AVMA (beside none other than primatologist and cultural icon Jane Goodall) was in support of a bill called the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 2964).
The bill seeks to limit primate captivity to legitimate licensees, closing loopholes that allow private citizens to keep monkeys and other primates as pets. Citing human safety, animal welfare concerns and habitat destruction, among other issues, Steve Ross of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums explained that the bill “takes aim at the increase in the number of unregulated and untrained individuals who are maintaining non-human primates as personal pets.”
And it’s about time we did something about it. The trade in primates is alive and well in South Florida. Released primates (often spider monkeys) wind their way through our neighborhoods occasionally. Lemurs and Capucin monkeys dangle off arms at the Starbucks (and I can’t even bring my dog inside!).
Monkeys are often quite docile—until they’re not. Then it’s 120 stitches. Monkeys are often healthy—until they’re found to have infected you with a deadly strain of herpes virus. Monkeys are often sold as captive-bred—though a good many traders are unscrupulous and untrustworthy on this front.
I grew up hearing stories of my mother’s six monkeys in Cuba. And I longed for one like you have no idea. Gradually, I grew accustomed to the fact that moving to the US conferred certain benefits, among them the understanding that non-human primates are wild animals who belong as far away from humans as possible…whenever possible.