Blumenauer, Fitzpatrick and Blumenthal Introduce New Legislation to Ban Private Possession of Primates

May 12, 2021
Press Release
Bipartisan bill will ban private ownership and interstate commerce of monkeys, apes and other primates.

Today, U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), along with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), introduced new legislation to protect primates and public safety. While many state laws already ban the private ownership of primates, the bipartisan and bicameral Captive Primate Safety Act would strengthen existing protections to prohibit interstate commerce and private ownership of monkeys, apes, and other primates.

“Keeping primates as pets is both hazardous and inhumane. There is no reason why these wild animals should be trapped inside homes away from their natural habitats,” said Blumenauer. “Beyond the harm to animals, this reckless trend puts families and communities at risk of physical attacks and dangerous viruses. It is past time to end this harmful practice and ensure humane treatment of these animals. It’s what is best for people and primates.”

“As a member of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, I am committed to ensuring our government is doing its part to promote animal welfare. For too long, primates have been mistreated, exploited, and abused while also carrying deadly diseases that can be passed along to humans,” said Fitzpatrick. “Our bipartisan and bicameral Captive Primate Safety Act would prohibit the unlicensed, private possession of apes, monkeys, and other primates, and put animal welfare and safety first.”

“This common-sense legislation cracks down on the dangerous, exploitative pet primate trade. Prohibiting the private ownership, sale, and transportation of apes, chimps, and other primates will alleviate the suffering these intelligent, social animals endure in sub-standard captivity. Hundreds of people have been injured by privately owned primates. Passing the Captive Primate Safety Act will protect both the animals and the public,” said Blumenthal. 

Already, 31 states prohibit private possession of some or all primate species as pets. However, primates are easily obtained on the internet and through out-of-state dealers and auctions. This private ownership poses significant public health and animal welfare issues. There have been several high-profile incidents of pet primates attacking humans. Animals can also carry dangerous viruses that can be transferred to humans, such as COVID-19 and Herpes B.

The legislation introduced today in both chambers of Congress would support the efforts of state law enforcement and promote global conservation efforts to help these animals.

The Captive Primate Safety Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Edward J. Markey (D-MA). It is also endorsed by the Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA, Association of Zoos and Aquariums, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Four Paws USA, North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, Humane Society Legislative Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States.

“Primates are wild animals whose natural behaviors are incompatible with life as a pet in someone’s home. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are witnessing firsthand the devastating consequences of how easily zoonotic disease can spread when humans have close contact with wildlife. Primates can carry communicable diseases that are dangerous and potentially fatal to humans — they do not belong in homes,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “The Captive Primate Safety Act would protect humans from these unnecessary risks and primates from mistreatment.”

“The simple truth is all non-human primates are wild animals. Most species live in complex, multigenerational, social hierarchies in a natural environment. And yet, the cruel pet trade subjects these intelligent, sensitive animals to lives of isolation, restriction, and complete disconnect from their own kind. Even with the best of intentions, holding primates captive causes health and developmental issues, as well as serious emotional and psychological harm,” said Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA. “At our primate sanctuary, we have witnessed this firsthand in the many monkeys who came to us after years of suffering and neglect as 'pets' in private homes. As wild animals that are unable to be domesticated, primates will also always be a risk to public safety – demonstrated by countless tragic and senseless incidents. It is time for a federal solution to protect both primates and the public."

While the Captive Primate Safety Act has been introduced in previous years, this new legislation in the 117th Congress explicitly bans private ownership of primates as pets and addresses the trade of primates through interstate commerce. Previously, the bill only dealt with trade through interstate commerce.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.