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For Immediate Release: 07/06/11

U.S. Senators Introduce Bill to End Trade in Primates as ‘Pets’

Animal Welfare Groups Support Legislation to Protect Primates and People from Dangerous and Inhumane Trade

The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund and Born Free USA commend Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., David Vitter, R-La., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., for introducing S. 1324, the Captive Primate Safety Act, to prohibit interstate commerce of monkeys, apes and other nonhuman primates in the exotic pet trade.

“The Captive Primate Safety Act, which I introduced with Senators Vitter and Blumenthal, would prohibit the transportation of primates across state lines for the pet trade,” Boxer said. “As we have seen from multiple attacks, these animals pose a serious threat to public health and safety. Passage of this bill is long overdue.”

The trade in pet primates greatly compromises animal welfare and poses grave dangers to human health and safety. While infant primates may seem cute and cooperative, they inevitably grow stronger and more aggressive. Since 1990, more than 200 people — including dozens of children — have been injured by primates, and many more incidents likely went unreported. One well-known case happened in 2009, when a pet chimpanzee mauled a woman’s face off in Connecticut. Primates also pose disease risks, including transmission of Ebola, tuberculosis and herpes B.

“Primates belong in the wild, not in our basements and bedrooms. These highly social and intelligent creatures deserve better than to languish in captivity,” said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of the HSUS and president of HSLF. “We are grateful to Senators Boxer, Vitter and Blumenthal for working to pass this urgently needed public safety and animal welfare measure.”

In 2003, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act was signed into law to prohibit interstate commerce in lions, tigers and other big cats as pets. Because primates face similar inhumane treatment and pose similar threats to public health and safety, animal protection advocates seek to add them to the list of species prohibited in commercial trade.

“The Captive Primate Safety Act would complement federal health regulations prohibiting the importation of primates into the United States for pet trade. The bill also complements laws in about 20 states — including Louisiana — prohibiting keeping primates as pets,” Vitter said.

And Blumenthal said, “Primates and other exotic animals are a public safety risk when kept as pets, as shown by the tragic accident that occurred in my home state of Connecticut. This bill is an important step toward protecting the public and correcting a vague and flawed federal law that fails to prohibit non-human primates as pets. This much needed legislation will close this loophole and ensure that accidents like the chimp attack in Stamford never happen again.”

“The captive primate trade involves enormous suffering and threats to human safety,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “These innocent animals are often confined in small cages and have their teeth extracted. We can’t allow animals to be mutilated in the name of companionship. There is simply no excuse for keeping nonhuman primates as pets. Wildlife belongs in the wild.”

Roughly half of the states already prohibit private possession of primates as pets, but primates are easily obtained via the Internet and through out-of-state dealers and auctions, making federal legislation necessary to support the efforts of state law enforcement.

The Captive Primate Safety Act is narrowly crafted to target the commerce in and private possession of primates, and would not impact zoos, universities or wildlife sanctuaries. The HSUS, HSLF and Born Free USA are calling on Congress to move the legislation expeditiously so it can be signed into law this year. This legislation was approved by the full House and by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during the last congressional session, but was not enacted into law.

For more information about this bill and Born Free USA, contact Rodi Rosensweig at publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org.

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