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The Humane Society of the United States Issues Statement in Response to Las Vegas Chimpanzee Escape

Tragedy underscores need for state and federal legislation regulating ownership of primates as pets

Holly Haley, The Humane Society of the United States’ Nevada state director, is issuing the following statement in response to the escape of two chimpanzees in a northwest Las Vegas residential area, which resulted in the shooting death of one of the animals:

“This incident tragically illustrates the urgent need for the Nevada state legislature to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals including chimpanzees and other primates. These animals are highly social with complex needs, and they pose a safety risk to local communities. Until the Nevada legislature and Congress take action, these unfortunate situations will continue to occur.”

The HSUS is also calling on the U.S. Congress to pass The Captive Primate Safety Act, S. 1324 and H.R. 4306, to prohibit interstate commerce in monkeys, apes and other primates for the exotic pet trade.

The risk of keeping primates as pets has been illustrated time and time again, including the 2009 attack by a pet chimpanzee who inflicted catastrophic and disfiguring injuries on a Connecticut woman. It appears that no humans were harmed in this incident but, as is so often the case, one of the chimpanzees paid with his life. 


  • Since 1990, more than 200 people – including dozens of children – have been injured by captive primates, and many more incidents likely went unreported. Primates also pose disease risks, including transmission of tuberculosis and herpes-B virus.
  • In 2003, the Captive Wildlife Safety Act was signed into law to prohibit interstate commerce of lions, tigers and other big cats as pets. Because primates face similar inhumane treatment and pose similar threats to public health and safety, animal protection advocates seek to add them to the list of species prohibited in commercial trade. The Captive Primate Safety Act is narrowly crafted to target the commerce in and private possession of primates, and would not impact zoos, universities or wildlife sanctuaries. The legislation recently passed the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
  • Nevada is one of only six states that has no law pertaining to the private possession of dangerous wild animals. Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently signed a new state law banning the acquisition of primates and other dangerous exotic animals as pets.
  • The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society of Primatologists, and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians oppose the private possession of primates.


Media Contact: Pepper Van Tassell: 240-751-0232; pvantassell@humanesociety.org