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Can You Keep a Pocket Monkey as a Pet?

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Pygmy marmosets -- also known as "pocket monkeys" or "finger monkeys" -- are one the world's tiniest primates. And tiny they are: about 5 to 6 inches in length, including the tail. Native to the rainforests of South America, pocket monkeys can be found in the United States only in captivity. Whether you can keep one as a pet depends on a number of things, including where you live.

States with the Most Freedom

Some states have no laws prohibiting the keeping of monkeys as pets. For example, you're allowed to own a pocket monkey without the need for any special permits or paperwork in states like Alabama, Nebraska and South Carolina. North Carolina doesn't have a statewide law regarding the possession of primates, leaving it in the hands of municipalities to make a decision. This means some cities or counties in North Carolina might allow it, while others don't.

OK with a Permit

In some states, such as Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, you'll need to apply for a special permit before buying any type of primate or other type of wild or potentially dangerous animal. Permits must be obtained from the state Department of Agriculture and can be difficult and lengthy to process. Applying for a permit is no guarantee that you'll get it.

Never OK

Some states won't allow you to keep a pocket monkey -- or any monkey, for that matter -- as a pet, no matter the circumstances. New York and New Jersey, for example, have strict laws regarding the possession of all types of wild animals, including primates, as pets. In these states, the only people who could keep a pocket monkey would be those running a sanctuary or some sort of animal exhibit. Even then, they would have to meet extensive criteria to be approved.

Some Considerations

Even if your state allows you to keep a pocket monkey as a pet, you might want to reconsider. Pygmy marmosets can become aggressive as they get older, especially if they're not provided with the environment they need to thrive. Primates cannot be kept in a cage and need constant mental stimulation or they might become violent, depressed or socially inept. Also, pygmy marmosets are highly sociable animals who do better when they live in a group, so keeping a single one as a pet is not ideal.