U.S. Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) recently introduced the Captive Primate Safety Act in the U.S. Senate.
The bill, which parallels a similar House of Representatives bill introduced last year, would add primates to a federal list of wildlife species that private individuals are prohibited from owning.
The bill is clearly motivated by recent, highly publicized attacks by captive primates, such as that at Animal Haven Ranch where two chimpanzees were shot and killed in March after they mauled a visitor to the ranch.
In announcing his bill, for example, Jeffords said,
The Captive Primate Safety Act is a common sense solution to a potentially very serious problem. Monkeys, chimpanzees, and other nonhuman primates can be dangerous if not cared for properly and can pose an even greater risk to our public health as carriers of dangerous diseases. Our legislations is need to help federal agencies control and monitor these species within our borders.
But this argument, if you’ll pardon the pun, appears to be specious. In a press release lauding the bill, for example, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that are 15,000 primates currently in private hands. But the best estimate of injuries caused by those animals is 100 over the last 10 years.
Compare that to estimates of the number of injuries from dog bites. A 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that dog bites accounted for more than 300,000 visits to the emergency room annually. That’s more than 900 visits every single day to the emergency room nationwide due to dog bites.
And since Jeffords is so concerned about children, it should be noted that the bulk of victims of dog bites are minors. The median age of dog bite victims in the 1998 study was just 15 years.
Perhaps if the HSUS and Jeffords really want to get rid of a dangerous animal that targets children, they’ll first push a Captive Canine Safety Act first and then turn their attention to the extremely small safety problem posed by captive primates.
The full text of the proposed Captive Primate Safety Act can be read here.
Senate Bill Introduced to Restrict Pet Trade in Monkeys, Chimpanzees. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, July 27, 2005.
Incidence of Dog Bite Injuries Treated in Emergency Departments. Harold B. Weiss, MS, MPH; Deborah I. Friedman; Jeffrey H. Cohen, MD. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1998, V.279, No.1, pp.51-3.