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February 24, 2009

US House of Representatives Passes Captive Primate Safety Act

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — Eight days after a chimpanzee kept as a pet attacked and critically injured a Connecticut woman, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Captive Primate Safety Act, H.R. 80, introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., to stop interstate commerce in primates as pets. The bill passed by a vote of 323 to 95. The bill now moves for consideration to the U.S. Senate, where the effort to pass the legislation is being led by U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund expressed thanks and appreciation to Reps. Blumenauer and Kirk for introducing the bill, and to Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairwoman Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.V., for their leadership in bringing the measure to the House floor so expeditiously.

"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 HSUS. "Congressional action on this animal welfare and public safety issue will complement our efforts at the state level to dry up the trade and the practice of private ownership of chimps and other primates."

"As the tragic attack in Connecticut shows us, The Captive Primate Safety Act is necessary, common-sense legislation for the welfare of humans and animals," said Rep. Blumenauer.  "Make no mistake, this bill will protect communities and ensure the humane treatment of these animals. The passage of this bill is long overdue; I salute The Humane Society of the United States and animal welfare advocates for their consistent dedication and I am pleased that together we were able to pass this bill."

Rep. Kirk said, "It is inhumane to cage primates in private homes. Besides the animal cruelty concerns, the interstate movement of pet primates creates serious public health and safety risks. The Captive Primate Safety Act takes important steps to address these concerns."

Primates can inflict serious injuries and spread life-threatening disease, and the average pet owner cannot provide for their basic social and physical needs in captivity. People get them as infants, and when they become too dangerous to manage, they may be confined to small cages, isolated from others of their kind.

The bill is similar to the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which Congress passed unanimously in 2003 to prohibit interstate commerce in lions, tigers and other big cats as pets. Like the big cats bill, the Captive Primate Safety Act targets the pet trade and has no impact on zoos or research.

"The primate trade involves enormous animal suffering and threats to human safety," said Adam M. Roberts, senior vice president of Born Free USA. "These innocent animals may be confined in small cages or have their teeth or fingernails removed. We can't allow animals to be mutilated in the name of companionship. There is simply no excuse for keeping primates as pets and the trade must stop. Wildlife belongs in the wild."

A list of recent incidents involving captive primates can be found at humanesociety.org/primateincidents. Audio soundbites on the legislation are also available upon request.

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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 28. 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.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. On the web at hslf.org. 

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