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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

Keeping primates as “pets”

Published 07/02/08
By Sarah Kite, Co-director. Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary

Like many of you I watched with dismay ABC’s Primetime last night which covered the widespread practice of keeping nonhuman primates as “pets” and the shameful defense of this practice.

As Co-director of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, I can tell you that our Sanctuary has many former “pet” monkeys, all with sad stories of neglect, cruelty and abandonment: monkeys kept in captivity — fundamentally inhumane — and forced to carry out unnatural behaviors because of some person’s selfish decision to have a baby monkey as a “pet.”

These monkeys cannot thrive in human households despite what people may tell you. They should be living with their family groups in their native habitat. They should never have to suffer the indignity of being dressed up in children’s clothes, stuck in a high chair and made to use silverware. Nonhuman primates will always be wild animals and to try to force them to be otherwise, by pulling out teeth and nails, depriving them of the companionship of other monkeys and keeping them in totally unnatural conditions, is inexorably cruel.

One example of this cruelty is the case of Justin, a young male snow monkey who arrived at our Sanctuary after being confiscated because of aggression. Justin’s “owner” had most of his teeth pulled out in a futile attempt to make him less dangerous. Another is Carly, also a snow monkey, whose life consisted of a dirty, small, metal cage in a garage — deprived of sunlight, space, and companionship. Or Boon, a baboon who arrived at our Sanctuary in poor mental and physical condition — frightened and withdrawn, he was self-mutilating after years of living in solitary confinement in a filthy dark shed. And I could go on ...

These primates are highly social, intelligent animals with complex behavioral and psychological needs. The emotional scars these animals bear as a result of being taken from their mothers, often at birth, and “raised” as if they were children in a human household remain with them forever. They are dysfunctional with severe behavioral and psychological problems. Many display stereotypic behavior — a repetitive purposeless movement such as circling or rocking. Others self harm, biting and chewing limbs sometimes so severely that they cause bleeding. This behavior is never seen in wild moneys, but it is almost always seen in monkeys who are kept as household “pets.”

To find out more about why it is wrong to keep primates as “pets,” click here. For further information on ways you can support the important work we do at the Sanctuary, click here.

And most importantly, for the animals’ sake, and for your health and safety, resist the urge to keep primates as “pets” and encourage your friends and family to do likewise.

Until next time,


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