In the absence of a federal law on the subject of simian sidekicks, state laws prevail. So whether it is legal or illegal to have monkeys as pets depends on where you want to engage in monkey-keeping. If you live in California, you may be out of luck.
Pet Monkeys Allowed
As of 2012, 17 states have no restrictions against residents practicing the fine art of monkey-keeping. However, efforts by pro-animal groups and others are ongoing to have more states enact legislation banning monkeys as pets. Currently, Washington state, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina have no restrictions on keeping monkeys as pets. However, in 2012, legislation was pending to restrict monkey-keeping in Washington state, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Partial Pet Monkey Bans
Some states have not fully banned monkeys as pets. These states have some kind of law or restriction to which those who would like to keep monkeys as pets must adhere. As of this 2012 writing, Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi and Tennessee all have partial bans on monkey possession. These bans make it illegal to own apes, but not monkeys. Tennesseans may have any kind of monkey except for a baboon, and apes are not allowed. In Arizona, all monkeys are allowed but apes are not. In Indiana, you can have monkeys and great apes but must have a permit for the apes. Mississippi allows all monkeys except baboons and macaques, and bans all kinds of apes. Florida and Texas allow some types of monkeys but prohibit others. These laws are evolutionary, so check your own state's statutes if you are considering getting a monkey as a pet.
No Monkeys Allowed
In 2012, 19 states had outright bans on private monkey ownership. They are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming. If you live in one of these states and have your heart set on a monkey friend, you may have to think about moving.
Restrictions May Apply
Some states allow monkeys as pets but have restrictions on the kinds of monkey you can have, the manner of keeping, and the types of permits and insurance you must keep current in order to be in compliance with current laws. Oregon, Idaho, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Michigan and Delaware allow monkeys, but you must apply to the their divisions of wildlife to obtain permits, which may or may not be granted. In Hawaii, you can have a monkey as long as you are fully bonded. Laws are constantly changing; it's important you always check with your state authorities prior to seriously considering obtaining a monkey as a pet.
Monkeys are wild animals; they are not suitable for domestication as pets. Many of the states that allow them as pets have lengthy application processes and expensive bonding requirements. For example, Florida requires the applicant be a certain age -- at least 16 to own some monkeys and 18 for others -- and have 1,000 hours of volunteer work with monkeys under his belt, obtain letters of reference, and complete a written exam. Furthermore, specific requirements apply to the the size of the property where the habitat will be built as well as to construction of the habitat itself. Keep in mind that many municipalities and counties have their laws about pet monkeys that may prohibit monkeys even in states where no ban exists. Homeowners' associations, too, generally regulate pet possession, as do homeowner's insurance policies. It's imperative you check all your local and state laws regarding the keeping of exotic pets before you make a decision that will lead to broken hearts if the authorities come to confiscate your furry friend. Monkeys belong in the wild, a fact many lawmakers already recognize. Many more are getting on board.
Monkey image by Mariusz Niedzwiedzki from Fotolia.com
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.