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February 17, 2009

Chimpanzee Attack Prompts Calls to Pass Federal Legislation

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — Following Monday's incident in which a chimpanzee being kept as a pet in a Connecticut home attacked a woman and was shot and killed by police, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and The Humane Society of the United States renewed calls for the passage of the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 80). The legislation would prohibit interstate commerce in primates for the pet trade, making it illegal for individuals to buy or transport a pet primate across state lines. It would have no impact on zoos or research.

"Given the patchwork of state and local laws, and the interstate nature of the primate pet trade, a federal response is urgently needed," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The HSUS. "Primates are wild animals who can attack and spread disease, and they don't belong in our bedrooms and basements. It's time to end this dangerous monkey business."

"The incident that occurred in Connecticut yesterday is an example of why primates should not be kept as pets and why I am determined to outlaw this reckless and dangerous practice," said Rep. Blumenauer. "Primates are wild animals, and when kept in the home they can be a real-life threat to public safety. My thoughts go out to the woman who was injured yesterday. For the safety of our communities and for the safety of these animals, I will continue to work with The Humane Society of the United States and my colleagues in Congress to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act, a common-sense bill which would prohibit interstate primate trade to ultimately reduce this practice."

"Keeping a primate for a pet is both dangerous to the owner and inhumane to the animal," Rep. Kirk said. "The recent chimpanzee attack underscores the need for Congress to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act to protect the public and prevent future incidents."

People obtain primates as infants and they soon grow too strong and aggressive to handle. The average homeowner quickly learns that he or she cannot provide the appropriate housing or care that primates require. In November, an emaciated chimpanzee was removed from a Texas home. He reportedly was kept in a small cage and suffered a spinal deformity from malnutrition and lack of sunlight.

Connecticut allows primates as pets with a state permit. The rule grandfathered animals who were already in the state on Oct. 1, 2003, but only for smaller species that weigh up to 50 pounds at maturity. The permit requirement applies to all chimpanzees. Twenty states and the District of Columbia prohibit keeping primates as pets.

The Captive Primate Safety Act was introduced by U.S. Reps. Blumenauer and Kirk, and a Senate version of the bill is led by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.). Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives last June by an overwhelming 302 to 96 vote. It also cleared a Senate committee, but the Congress adjourned before it could be enacted. The measure was first introduced in 2005, two weeks after a man was mauled nearly to death by two chimpanzees who escaped at a California exotic animal facility.

For a list of notable primate incidents from 2005 to 2009, click here.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org

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