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For Immediate Release: 07/22/08

Born Free USA calls on Columbia city council to ban dangerous monkeys as pets

Group offers Sanctuary home to biting monkey

Columbia, MO — Born Free USA, a national animal advocacy organization, today sent a letter to the Columbia city council calling on officials to ban the ownership of wild and exotic animals in the city. This request follows reports of a July 4th attack on a human by a primate — in this case, a Japanese Macaque, or snow monkey — being kept inappropriately as a pet. This is the second such attack in Columbia in less than a year.

Born Free USA is offering to re-home the animal at its Primate Sanctuary near San Antonio, Texas, which is home to more than 500 macaques — predominantly snow monkeys, baboons, and vervets, many of whom came from deplorable conditions or inappropriate private homes or businesses. The Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary is one of the very few in the U.S. that provides large, free-ranging, natural enclosures. The Sanctuary features 186 acres of dense vegetation with several ponds. The majority of monkeys live freely in these enclosures with minimum human interference.

"Monkeys are wild animals and do not belong in people's backyards or other captive situations,” says Dr. Ned Buyukmihci, veterinarian and co-director of the Sanctuary. “We hope our offer to re-home this individual monkey to our Sanctuary will be accepted so he can live out the rest of his days in a natural environment with others of his kind.”

Nonhuman primates are highly social animals. They require the companionship of others of their species for psychological and emotional well-being. They have complex networks of interaction that are reinforced by grooming and playing. Those kept in captivity arrive at the Sanctuary displaying disturbed behavior, such as self-biting and pacing, after having lived an unnatural life in human households and deprived of normal companionship. The goal at the Sanctuary is to rehabilitate these individuals by providing an enriched environment and the companionship of other monkeys.

Born Free USA’s (then the Animal Protection Institute) recent investigation into private ownership of wild animals in the USA revealed serious animal welfare and public safety concerns. One bizarre event known as a “primate picnic” took place in Missouri. At this event owners gathered to display their monkeys who were paraded around wearing children’s’ clothes and jewelry. Several of the animals suffered from emotional distress, displaying stereotypic behavior such as rocking and circling. It is inappropriate for wild animals to be treated in this way and potentially dangerous to allow people to have direct contact with them.

“The owners of these animals are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives,” says Nicole Paquette, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Born Free USA. “For the safety of people and animals in Columbia, the city council must act now to prohibit inherently dangerous wild and exotic animals, including all nonhuman primates, from being kept in private hands.”

Born Free USA works to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation and public education. Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and a sponsor of the federal Captive Primate Safety Act.


Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266

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