WASHINGTON (February 18, 2009) – In the wake of an attack on a Connecticut woman by a chimpanzee, U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.) plan to re-introduce the Captive Primate Safety Act. The bill seeks to protect public safety and promote animal welfare by prohibiting interstate commerce of primates for the pet trade. U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 80) in January. Similar legislation passed the House by an overwhelming 302 to 96 vote last June. It also cleared a Senate committee, but the Congress adjourned before it could be enacted.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, "The Boxer-Vitter Captive Primate Safety Act would prohibit the transportation of primates across state lines for the pet trade. Passage of this bill is long overdue."
"The Captive Primate Safety Act is needed to complement the federal health regulations that prohibit importing primates into the United States for the pet trade and the rules that about 20 states – including Louisiana – have enacted to prohibit keeping primates as pets," said Sen. Vitter.
"Given the patchwork of state and local laws, and the interstate nature of the primate pet trade, Congress needs to pass legislation to stem the tide of dangerous primates being sold in our communities," said Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "Primates are wild animals who can attack and spread disease, and they don't belong in our bedrooms and basements. We are grateful to Senators Boxer and Vitter for working to pass this urgently needed public safety and animal welfare measure."
The bill is similar to the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which Congress passed unanimously in 2003 to prohibit interstate commerce in lions, tigers and other big cats as pets. Like the big cats bill, the Captive Primate Safety Act targets the pet trade and has no impact on zoos or research.
A list of recent incidents involving captive primates can be found here.
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The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSLF works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office. On the web at www.hslf.org.