Primate regulation isn't monkey business for Missouri Senate

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 | 3:55 p.m. CST; updated 4:32 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 9, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — A chimpanzee named Travis mauled a woman and left her face unrecognizable when he escaped his home in Stamford, Conn., and attacked Charla Nash, a close friend of his owner on Feb. 16, 2009. A year later, another chimpanzee, Sueko, also escaped from his home in Kansas City, and attacked a police car. Both Travis and Sueko came from Jefferson County, Mo.

The Senate Agriculture Committee debated a bill that would require owners to obtain permits for and neuter their primates incited passionate testimonies from several Missouri primate breeders.


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Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis City, sponsored the bill after Eric Miller, veterinarian and senior vice president at the Saint Louis Zoo, requested these large and exotic animals be regulated.

"Missouri is one of the few states with no (statewide) regulation of large and exotic animals," Miller said. "It's a national standard Missouri is working on catching up to."

Currently, Missouri regulates these primates on a county-by-county basis. Some counties in Missouri don't have primate requirements; others require primate owners to register their pets with the county sheriff. Owners must give the sheriff's office their address, a description of their primate and a description of the primate's living conditions.

If the bill passes, the Missouri Department of Agriculture would issue the statewide permits to primate owners, however, they have not yet taken a position for or against the bill.

More than 25 people attended a March 3 committee hearing to speak against the bill. Miller, the only proponent who spoke in favor of the bill, testified on behalf of the Saint Louis Zoo.

Suzanne Windsor, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed exhibitor of primates, opposed the bill.

"It's an all out ban," Windsor said. "They are trying to go above and beyond what the state is supposed to be doing by going above and beyond federal regulations."

Her main concern was the bill's requirement to spay and neuter — both of which are high-risk surgeries for a primate, whose reproductive system resembles a human's. She said it would result in the gradual phase-out of Missouri primate breeding.

"For people that are USDA-licensed to breed and sell, it causes unnecessary surgeries on primates that could cause their deaths," Windsor said. "If you have a 22-year-old primate that's never been spayed, there's a good chance she could never come off that table [alive]."

Keaveny said he is looking into changes to the bill to appease the opposition. He said he has received several suggestions from a veterinarian to help the bill pass next year.

"We are open to making those [necessary] adjustments," he said.

The bill would exempt zoos, nonprofit organizations, animal control and law enforcement, circuses, educational institutions and exhibits, animal sanctuaries and veterinarians.

Currently, 15 states have a permit system for owning primates and 20 states have outlawed some, if not all, primate ownership. States that don't have regulations include Missouri border states Kansas and Nebraska.

A violation of the act would result in a class A misdemeanor charge unless the person intentionally releases a non-human primate, which would result in a class D felony.

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Kevin Gamble March 9, 2011 | 4:33 p.m.

There's little rational or humane reason for any private individual or entertainment-only group to own a primate. The sooner such practice is banned, the better. The same goes for laboratory experimentation on primates. One day, all of the above practices will seem shockingly primitive and backward. I'm sorry we aren't already there.

(Report Comment)
Marina Shane March 9, 2011 | 4:57 p.m.

Article Quote:
"Missouri is one of the few states with no (statewide) regulation of large and exotic animals," Miller said. "It's a national standard Missouri is working on catching up to."

Actually, last year Missouri Finally passed the Large Carnivore Act which, except as permitted in the act, prohibits the owning, breeding, possession, transferring of ownership, or transporting of "large carnivores," defined as certain non-native cats of the Felidae family or any species of non-native bear held in captivity.
Here's the link to read it:
Perhaps our legislators might want to enact similar legislation for primates.

(Report Comment)
Marina Shane March 9, 2011 | 5:03 p.m.

Also, Missouri's lack of quality animal welfare regulation is the main reason we hold the title of "Puppy Mill Capitol of the United States" and also the reason why we are fast approaching "Exoctic Breeding Capitol of the US" (I believe we are in the top 5 if I remember correctly.)

(Report Comment)
Brenda Keller March 10, 2011 | 10:25 a.m.

Missouri does not have an exotic animal problem! Why do we need to pass a law that is not needed? In the last 20 years there have been 4 incidents with non human primates that inflicted injury on a human, non life threatening. There have been 2 injury incidents with bears and 5 with big cats, none with small cats. Yet one person, Eric Miller thinks we need legislation to stop a problem that does not exsist. Who is really behind this??? Who is encouraging Eric Miller? Here is an example of a problem.............25 to 30 dog bites a WEEK in the KC metro, calculates into 1300 to 1500 bites a year!! JUST IN KC METRO!! There have been at least 2 deaths from dog attack in the last 5 years, in greater KC deaths from exotics. Animal incidents, be they exotic or companion animals need to be handled on a case by case basis. Now if we Missourian's have an animal problem it sure isn't with exotics.
I suspect HSUS has a hand in trying to push this forward and IMO Missouri needs to follow suit with Nebraska and KICK HSUS out of our state. We do not need them trying to set up their laws in our State. We have competent politicians for that.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 10, 2011 | 10:42 a.m.

Marina Shane wrote:

"Also, Missouri's lack of quality animal welfare regulation is the main reason we hold the title of "Puppy Mill Capitol of the United States" "

We have very high quality animal welfare legislation. We have only so-so enforcement.


(Report Comment)
Vickey Grabowski March 10, 2011 | 11:00 a.m.

Mr. Gambel states "There's little rational or humane reason for any private individual or entertainment-only group to own a primate."

Please do not speak for me! I have no problem with private ownership of exotics as long as they are being taken care of. You think they should be in their natural habitat! Why; so they can be killed for bush meat, so they can be shot the same way we shoot rabbits or pigions as pests in this country. We humans have crowded these wonderful animals out of their natural habitats, so now we are suppose to just let them die off. How sad is that. You know there was a time when dogs were wild but humans domesticated them, the same with every other animal that we now consider pets.

I do not appreciate you or anyone else trying to shove your will down my throat, by doing so you are infringing upon my rights as a citizen of this country. If people want to own and be responsible for primates what right does anyone have to complain. If you don't like primates do not come to my home or the home of anyone else who has them.

(Report Comment)
Brenda Keller March 10, 2011 | 11:02 a.m.

Mark what state are you from? They just passed back in Nov Proposition B dealing with puppy mills but also stuck a ton of stuff on the bill that didn't have anything to do with puppy mills. HSUS advertised as though it was all about 3000 puppymills in the state. You know if someone can count them then they could certainly close them down so no need for another law!!!! Put those sad puppy faces out there for people to feel bad for the animal, vote for the prop, but never read the bill.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 10, 2011 | 1:30 p.m.

Brenda Keller wrote:

"Mark what state are you from?"

That's almost funny in a way.

Prop B was probably the subject I have commented on most, by a factor of 5 to 10, since it was put on the ballot. I know all about Prop B's problems, and am glad, for the sake of the licensed, responsible breeders in this state, the legislature is modifying it.


(Report Comment)
Frank G November 14, 2011 | 11:55 p.m.

Hi everyone... I just want to ask. Is this whole mess for any type of primate or just larger type of monkeys. I'm looking to purchase a marmoset. They are less dangerous than a ferret or chinchilla. So is tha law in Missouri trying to ban every primate?

(Report Comment)

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