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House OKs bill to halt interstate trade of primate pets

The action comes eight days after a Connecticut woman is mauled by a chimp. It does not ban primate ownership, but it prevents such animals from being transported over state lines for use as pets.

February 25, 2009|Sarah Gantz

WASHINGTON — Eight days after a Connecticut woman was mauled by a friend's pet chimpanzee, the House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday designed to stop the interstate trade of monkeys and apes as pets.

The Captive Primate Safety Act does not outlaw primate ownership, but would prevent them from being purchased and transported over state lines for use as pets. The bill's sponsors say that would be an important step in eliminating primates as pets.

"When we treat animals properly, and respect the fact that they are not like us -- that their needs are not met by being dressed up in tutus or taught to drink wine from wine glasses -- we make our communities and our families safer," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said during the debate.

The Humane Society of the United States says more than 100 attacks on humans by primates in captivity were recorded between 1995 and 2005. Last week, a Stamford, Conn., woman suffered critical injuries when she was attacked by a 200-pound pet chimp, which was shot to death by police.

The bill's supporters seized on the incident as an example of why the interstate pet trade must be better monitored. The measure passed 323-95, with opposition from some Republicans who said it would not avert attacks because it did not address the larger issue of primate ownership.

"The only person who's going to get bitten in this is the American taxpayer," said Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who questioned the $5-million price tag for enforcement. He said the issue should be left to states, and called the bill an unjustified expansion of federal power.

Twenty states ban ownership of primates as pets, and many others require licenses. Importation of primates for pet trade has been banned since 1975, but breeding and selling primates in the U.S. is legal.

"People get animals often when they're young and cute and not all that dangerous, then they grow into powerful animals who can kill us and whose behavior is unpredictable," said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society.

The bill passed the House in the 110th Congress but did not pass the Senate.

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sgantz@tribune.com

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