Pet Monkey Myths

Monkeys Carry Diseases

This is a myth regarding pet monkeys in the United States. Yes, WILD monkeys in other countries can carry diseases, as can any other animal. My monkeys have been tested for tuberculosis, and have been given vaccines against rubella, rabies, and tetanus as a precaution. They are perfectly SAFE. They drink from the same cup as I do, eat from the same plate as me, have accidentally scratched me, lick my face to give kisses, and I am totally healthy, as are they.

Do you think that a person would have animal in their home knowing it carried a deadly virus that could kill them and their family? Let’s be reasonable here. People are shown in movies, such as “Outbreak,” and it is etched in peoples heads that "all monkeys carry diseases." This is FALSE. After inquiring with the Centers for Disease Control in the US, they confirmed that there is NO RECORD OF DISEASE TRANSMISSION FROM PRIMATES in the pet sector to humans in over 15 years. The last record of infection occurred at a federally licensed research facility where the two handlers were infected while handling a macaque being used in research. Research facility handlers are probably getting infected with the very bacteria they injected into the primate!

Any honest veterinarian can confirm that properly vaccinated pet monkeys don't carry diseases transmissible to humans. Although, some may not condone primates as pets they can not deny the likelyhood of a pet primate transmitting a disease to a human is about as likely as a dog transmitting a disease to a human, if not less.

Primates in the pet sector get regular veterinary care to prevent diseases, much in the same way dogs and cats do. With regular screening, even a pet macaque, which is said to sometimes carry herpes B, can be perfectly virus free. I know several owners of macaques who have constant contact with them, and both owner and monkey are perfectly healthy.
People should be more worried about the diseases that they can give monkeys, rather than what a monkey can give them.

Also, since importing primates as pets from other countries is ILLEGAL in the US (more on this later), monkeys in the US pet sector are bred here in the US from disease free parents. This means there is an even lesser risk of contracting a disease from a pet monkey.

Monkeys Are Taken From the Wild to be Destined for a Life as a Pet

When was the last time you walked outside your home in the United States and saw a monkey swinging from trees in your yard? Never, unless they escaped from a zoo! Monkeys are not native species to the United States, hence the term EXOTIC PET. Monkey mothers ARE NOT KILLED while their babies are still on their backs and taken from the wild in the US. They are bred in captivity and removed from their mothers as any other animal, dog, cat … is removed.

Since 1975, the Federal Quarantine Regulations (42CFR71.53) have restricted the importation of primates. Primates CAN NOT under any circumstance be imported to the US as pets. Also applies to re-importation of a primate originating in the US.

ALL LEGALLY acquired pet monkeys in the US have been bread in the United States, from primates who had been brought here prior to 1975, NOT taken from the wild.


Primate pets in the US are actually contributing to the SURVIVAL of certain endangered species of primates, such as the Cotton Top Tamarin who is almost extinct in their natural habitat. (They were flourishing here to until a law pushed by AR groups in certain states mandated that Tamarins in their state be Neutered/spayed! A species with about 2,000-5,000 in the wild!)

Monkeys Will Become Aggressive When They Reach Adulthood

Monkeys are not the problem, but owners who acquire a primate casually without researching the proper care of the species. People who get a monkey without knowing a thing about them are going to run into problems, especially if they got the monkey and leave it alone all day. Aggression can occur with any animal, including humans. Monkeys CAN be trained not to bite, but they require A LOT of social interaction and enrichment. A monkey will bite if provoked, again, as will any animal. Monkeys actually have a flight response. If they escape, the primate will run up a tree or other tall object, until the owner can fetch it. They are not predators. All the monkey owners I know (over 20) don’t have a biting problem with their monkey(s). They established themselves as Alpha in the primates’ adolescent years and through an enriching and nurturing relationships have tamed their monkey.

There are over 15,000 pet monkeys in the United States, yet only 140 reported primate bites in TEN YEARS. This translates to a less than .01% chance you will be bitten by a monkey, and much less a pet monkey. Most of these bites did not occur in the private sector, but in federally licensed facilities and zoos, and include bites from apes, such as chimpanzees. Many states don’t even have any monkey bites on record. If you notice, all the anti monkey sites mention the same few attacks. Monkey owners know the stigmas given to monkeys, as well as the laws stipulating if a monkey bites, or even scratches someone, it gets confiscated and killed in order to be tested for rabies. So the majority of primate owners don’t allow the public to come in close contact with their monkey. They are always kept on leash and in control when in public.

I have nothing against dogs, but I am purely stating the facts. In reality people have a higher chance of being attacked and bit by a pet dog. Dog bites are in the millions per year. Yet the dog is still considered “man’s best friend.” This goes to prove that monkeys are not the only animals that bite. Any animal with teeth can bite. It all boils down to the care that the animal received. An animal that got the attention and nurturing it needed, should not have an aggression problem.

Monkeys are Given up Often and Sanctuaries are At Capacity

Yes, most primate sancturies are at or near capacity, but there are much fewer primate sanctuaries in the United States than doestic animal sanctuaries. There may be 75 primate sanctuaries in the United States, if even. Here is the thing, the majority of the animals in primate sanctuaries were monkeys that came from research laboratories, not the private sector. All the lab monkeys need to go somewhere to live out their lives when these facilities are done with them. Primates also require large enclosures so sanctuaries can not house that many. Some sactuaries are at capacity with only 10 monkeys. Very few have 50 monkeys, and even less have 100+. Monkeys also live very long lives. Capuchins for example can easily live 45 years in captivity. So a sanctuary will have the same monkeys in their care for decades, because they won't allow others to adopt them out.

I am not saying pet monkeys are not given to sanctuaries, but I do believe that the numbers are greatly exaggerated. If an owner can no longer care for their monkey they will first try to sell it to another owner. Many people in the monkey community take in other pet monkeys, so sanctuaries are a last resort for pet owners, unless the primate is unmanageable.

How many domestic animal shelters are there in the US, 1,500+? All major cities have at least one. How many animals are in those shelters, 50- 100+? And they allow adoptions. The point is that some people will always give up their animal no matter what species it is. The "pet" primate is not the problem, but owners who did not educate themselves beforehand, or aren't as determined to care for animal, be it a dog, cat or monkey.

Pet Owners Are Not Qualified To Properly Care for Them

Private owners, who took the time to research the care and husbandry of the primate(s) they posess, CAN and DO provide their monkeys excellent care. Private owners make a large investment of both time and money in their primate to have that investment whither away. The majority of private owners see their monkeys more as part of the family and afford them the best possible medical care and life. Many private owners have large enclosures and entire rooms way above the USDA requirements dedicated to their pet.

Many private owners are also members of a variety of primate organizations where they can seek advice and learn from each other different ways to enrich their primates' lives. These organizations provide a forum where owners can consult with each other, as well as member veterinarians and physicians, a variety of primate ailments, behavior, and enrichment ideas. Private owners are constantly educating themselves and researching information pertaining to their monkeys. I personally have read a couple books on primate care, as well as read countless web sites describing proper care and husbandry of primates.

Example of private owner caging for their 3 Capuchins. Notice mulitple tunnels to other cages for enrichment.

Check my "Monkey Care and Tips" page to see more private owner caging.

I am a member of four exotic animal and primate organizations who support RESPONSIBLE ownership of exotic animals:

Simian Society of America
The Simian Society is an organization over fifty years old dedicted to educating and preserving the rights of responsible owners to keep their pets. Members include those do don't own a primate yet to those with over 25 years of experience raising captive primates. There is a wealth of information to be found among SSA's members. I encourge even those who do not own primates yet to join SSA. Each month they send a newsletter and journal on new enrichmnet and handling techniques, and general news of the "monkey world."
(Special thank you to SSA members who have contributed their pictures and knowledge which helped make this site posiible.)

Uniting a Proactive Primate and Exotic Animal League (UAPPEAL)
UAPPEAL is an organization that supports responsible ownership of all exotics. They have a great team of people, including a professional lobbyist fighting for our rights to own our animals, and assuring that fair legislation is passed which benefit the animals while preserving owner rights. If you plan to acquire any exotic species, I strongly encourage you become a member of UAPPEAL. We need our member numbers to increase. If we don't get your support now, in a few years when you want to have your exotic, you may not be able to. North Carolina Association of Reptile Keepers The North Carolina Association of Reptile Keepers was created in the spring of 2005 to establish standards for caging, husbandry and safety protocols for reptile keepers. NCARK believes that keeping reptiles is part of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. Great organization if you like reptiles. I joined NCARK because they help fight legislation which affects owners of various exotic species, and I believe owners of all exotics need to stick together regardless of animal kept.

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