House tightens fed controls over pet primate trade

24 February 2009 General News

House tightens fed controls over pet primate trade

Eight days after a 200-pound (91-kilogram)chimpanzee critically mauled a woman in the state of Connecticut, the House of Representatives moved Tuesday to ban the transport of monkeys and apes across state lines for the purpose of selling them as pets.

The legislation to prohibit interstate commerce in primates also passed the House last year, but bill sponsor Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat, said the "horrific chimpanzee attack" that stunned the U.S. last week would bring "renewed urgency" to the need to pass the bill into law.

he importation of primates for the pet trade has been outlawed since 1975, but Blumenauer said 30 states, including Connecticut, allow the keeping of the animals as pets and it is easy to purchase a primate from exotic animal dealers or over the Internet.

He said there have been at least 100 reports of attacks over the past decade, 29 involving children.

The Humane Society of the United States, which supports the legislation, said nonhuman primates can also pose serious health risks to humans, spreading diseases such as Herpes B and tuberculosis.

"There is no reason for any private citizen to keep a primate as a pet, and this trade is driven by unscrupulous dealers who sell primates across state lines for thousands of dollars," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society.

The measure passed 323-95, with several Republican opponents saying that animal control was a state, rather than federal issue, and that spending federal dollars to prevent interstate commerce would do little to stop animal attacks.

The bill, said Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican does nothing to prohibit a monkey from biting, such as in the Connecticut incident, "unless the monkey was willing to chase the woman from Connecticut over to New York State." He compared the 100 attacks over 10 years to the 100,000 people who go to the hospital every year with dog bites.

"I would respectfully suggest that having your face ripped off is not the same as just an animal bite, a nip here or scratch there," Blumenauer said. "We are dealing with animals that have the potential of inflicting serious damage and death." He estimated that up to 400 chimpanzees are kept as pets in the United States.

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