Senate Bills Introduced to Keep Primates and Big Cats Out of the Pet Trade

Photo from Flickr by Jeff Youngstrom
Photo from Flickr by Jeff Youngstrom

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) supports the recent Senate reintroduction of the Captive Primate Safety Act (CPSA) and the Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA), both sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), which address the cruel and dangerous problem of exotic pet ownership in the United States.

“Primates and big cats kept as pets endure lives of misery,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “They are often forcibly removed from their mothers soon after birth and spend their lives isolated in small cages. When they escape, they endanger the community, including first responders. The Captive Primate Safety Act and the Big Cat Public Safety Act are urgently needed to protect both the animals and the public, and we are grateful to Senator Blumenthal for introducing these important bills.”

The CPSA would amend the Lacey Act to prohibit interstate commerce in nonhuman primates (including apes, monkeys, lemurs, and lorises) for the exotic pet trade. Estimates suggest that there are thousands of primates kept as pets in the United States. About half of all states already prohibit private possession of some or all primate species. Still, a federal law is necessary because primates are easily acquired via the internet or through out-of-state dealers and auctions. Private ownership results in physical and psychological suffering for the primates, who also pose a significant threat to public safety by potentially causing injuries and transmitting disease.

The BCPSA would amend the Lacey Act to prohibit the possession of lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species by private individuals. The bill also restricts direct contact between the public and big cats. Unscrupulous facilities profit from cub petting or photo opportunities, which fuels a rampant and vicious cycle of breeding and dumping cubs. After they outgrow their usefulness at 12 weeks old, many of these cubs are funneled into the exotic pet trade. As with pet primates, big cat ownership by unqualified individuals presents a serious threat to the welfare of the animals and to the safety of the public. Since 1990, there have been nearly 380 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats in 46 states and the District of Columbia, including human injuries, maulings, and deaths.

“These bills will help prevent the exploitation of big cats and primates—reducing risks to public safety by prohibiting the private ownership of animals that should really be allowed to live naturally in the wild,” Blumenthal said. “When wild animals—whether lions or chimpanzees—are kept captive by private individuals, both the public and animals are put at serious risk. Big cats are powerful predators, not pets, and pose a particular threat to public safety. Primates, like apes and chimps, are intelligent, social animals that suffer greatly when held in isolation or captivity.”

These Senate bills join the House versions of the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 1776), introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380), introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]