The tragic incident this month that resulted in the shooting of a chimpanzee and the mauling of a 55-year-old woman in Stamford, Conn., offers a shocking lesson in the dangers of keeping chimpanzees as pets. In the wake of this tragedy, we can all push for laws banning the keeping of chimpanzees as pets.
As infants, chimpanzees are irresistibly cute, and many people assume raising one is similar to raising a human child. But chimpanzees grow up fast. Once they reach adolescence, at around 6 to 8 years old, they become many times stronger than an adult human. They have complex social and physical needs that no human environment can fully meet. Most significantly, they are wild animals. Despite the love a chimpanzee owner may have for their “pet,” once a chimpanzee is fully grown, he or she will be too unpredictable and dangerous to keep as part of the family.
The results of keeping chimps as pets can be tragic beyond belief. In Stamford, a woman has been mauled and disfigured; the pet chimpanzee, 14-year-old Travis, was shot by police; and his owner is bereft, guilt-ridden and could face a civil lawsuit.
The media’s current focus on the Stamford attack gives us an unprecedented opportunity to end once and for all the use of chimpanzees as pets. Some states have laws banning the ownership of chimpanzees, but not all.
Legislation currently before the U.S. Congress would ban the interstate commerce of chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates as pets. The Captive Primate Safety Act (HR 80), introduced by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., are leading efforts to pass an identical bill in the Senate. This Act would ensure public health and safety, as well as the humane treatment of chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates. JGI applauds the efforts of Reps. Blumenauer and Kirk, as well as Sens. Boxer and Vitter, and urges swift passage of this much needed legislation.
The Stamford tragedy also illustrates one of the many reasons chimpanzees should not be used in advertising and entertainment. Virtually all the chimps we see on TV and in movies are young – but many people don’t realize this. Viewers get the impression that these apes are small, cute and cuddly. They can have no concept of the strength and complexity of the full-grown animal. Frequent viewing of chimpanzees on-screen often gives people the false impression that chimpanzees are not endangered in the wild. Yet, chimpanzees are on the verge of extinction. This unrealistic picture harms efforts to garner support for their conservation.
Please ask your Senator to support the Captive Primate Safety Act. It will not only help prevent tragedies like that of last week, but also will ultimately protect wild chimpanzees who so badly need our support.