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January 17, 2014

Keeping Primates as Pets Should Be Banned, HSI UK Tells Parliamentary Committee

Humane Society International/UK

  • Wildlife belongs in the wild, not in our homes. HSI

LONDON—Humane Society International/UK is urging the UK parliament to ban the keeping of primates as pets.

Most recent estimates suggest that upwards of 9,000 primates may be held as pets in the UK, but the true figure could be far higher as records are incomplete

HSI/UK made its recommendation as part of a submission to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee enquiry, which is currently considering whether or not to recommend a ban on the private keeping of non-human primates. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Mark Jones, HSI/UK's executive director, who is also a veterinarian, said:

“Monkeys and other non-human primates belong in the wild, not in our homes. Here in the UK, the keeping of these highly intelligent, self-aware animals as pets is largely unregulated and they inevitably suffer both mentally and physically. This is often due to the owner's ignorance of their complex and quite varied individual and social needs, needs that can never be met in a domestic environment.”

“Primates also are extremely unpredictable, especially when they mature beyond the cute baby phase into adolescence, and can pose a significant risk to public health and safety. Several countries in Europe and beyond, have banned the keeping of pet primates, and it's time that Britain did the same."


  • Depending on how they are classified there may be 350 or more different species of non-human primates. The most commonly kept species such as marmosets, tamarins and squirrel monkeys are not covered under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. This means no system for licensing and inspecting these animals is in place, which also makes it impossible to calculate the exact number of these animals in private ownership in the UK.
  • Primate pet-owning celebrities help to fuel the trade. In March 2013 Justin Bieber's pet capuchin monkey, Mally, was confiscated by German customs officials. TOWIE's Joey Essex also has been criticised for repeatedly expressing interest in owning a pet monkey.
  • In 2009, Wild Futures and the RSPCA conservatively estimated the number of non-human primates in UK private ownership to be between 2,485 and 7,454. Updated calculations based on 2012 DWAA license figures put estimates at 3,000 to 9,000 animals (RSPCA pers comm). These estimates were based on survey responses from local authorities regarding the number of licences issued under the DWAA, plus extrapolations to account for commonly-held species not covered by the DWAA. Assumptions also were made relating to levels of non-compliance. Since the estimates do not consider species never listed under the DWAA, the true number could be far higher.
  • A voluntary Code of Practice for the Welfare of Privately Kept Non-Human Primates was introduced by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2010. HSI believes the CoP fails to adequately protect primates. Its welfare information is generic and therefore fails to provide specific information that is relevant to the huge range of species of non-human primates. As it is not legally binding and without registration or licensing requirements, ensuring compliance is virtually impossible and many local authorities are simply unaware of its existence. The CoP is due to be reviewed next year.


Media Contact: Wendy Higgins, HSI/UK: +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org


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