Citing concerns about the spread of disease and injury, inhumane treatment of animals, and ecological damage, Dr. Gail Golab, PhD, DVM, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Animal Welfare Division, spoke on the dangers of nonhuman primates kept as pets before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources.

The subcommittee is taking testimony on the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would stop commerce in chimpanzees, monkeys and other nonhuman primates kept as pets. Dr. Golab argued that the evidence is clear that primates kept as pets are a hazard to themselves, their owners and the public.

"According to the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition (CWAPC), more than 80 percent of health and behavioral issues with nonhuman primates arise from those that are kept as pets," she said. "Because nonhuman primates pose significant risks to the health of the public and domestic animals - including the possibility of severe injury to the humans and domestic animals with which they come in contact - the AVMA opposes private ownership of these animals."

Dr. Golab said that these animals are often taken from their mothers soon after birth, and both show signs of depression. Once they reach adulthood, primates can become aggressive and sometimes are stronger than their human owners. Between 1995 and 2005, there were 132 injuries caused by captive or escaped primates in the United States, according to the CWAPC. It's difficult to find veterinary care for these pets, Dr. Golab explained, and they carry numerous zoonotic diseases. "Tuberculosis is especially common among macaques and their owners," she said.

"Zoos don't have the space for nonhuman primates that were formerly pets, and sanctuaries are overburdened," Dr. Golab said.

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, also spoke. "They don't make good pets. Chimpanzee at a certain age, 5 or 6, are stronger than a man," Goodall said. "They have no business being kept as pets."

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