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US Senate Introduces Captive Primate Safety Act

The Humane Society of the United States

WASHINGTON — Tuesday, on the heels of a highly publicized attack of a Connecticut woman by a chimpanzee, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act (S. 462), which seeks to protect public safety and promote animal welfare by prohibiting interstate commerce of primates for the pet trade. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 80) that passed 323 to 95 Tuesday.

"We applaud the leadership of Senators Boxer and Vitter in championing this legislation," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The HSUS and president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "Pet primates are ticking time bombs in our communities. Along with the attack risk evident from this incident, primates can spread deadly diseases, and the average pet owner cannot meet their basic needs in captivity."

"The Boxer-Vitter Captive Primate Safety Act would prohibit the transportation of primates across state lines for the pet trade. Passage of this bill is long overdue," said Sen. Boxer.

"The Captive Primate Safety Act is needed to complement the federal health regulations that prohibit importing primates into the United States for the pet trade and the rules that about 20 states – including Louisiana – have enacted to prohibit keeping primates as pets," said Sen. Vitter.

Similar legislation cleared a Senate committee last year, but the Congress adjourned before it could be enacted. 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.

Born Free USA has joined The HSUS and HSLF in urging swift passage of the legislation. "The desire to be close to exotic animals is understandable," noted Adam Roberts, senior vice president of Born Free USA. "But the risk to the animals and the people who live near them is just too great. Primates should not be pets." 

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.

A list of recent incidents involving captive primates can be found at humanesociety.org/primateincidents.


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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