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Monkey World News

Health fears for the 9,000 monkeys we keep as pets:

6 February 2014

Health fears for the 9,000 monkeys we keep as pets: Animals can suffer depression and self-harm if they are not treated properly

  • Some owners are taking to the pub or drive them around on scooters
  • Intelligent creatures can become so ill that they have to be put down

Up to 9,000 monkeys are being kept as pets in homes around the UK and their popularity is rising exponentially, MPs have heard.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee was told yesterday that some of the intelligent and social creatures are taken to the pub by their owners or driven around on scooters.

But if they are not treated properly they can suffer devastating illnesses, from bone breakage to depression, and even self-harm. Some become so ill that they have to be put down.

Worrying trend: The number of Britons keeping monkeys as
pets is rising 'exponentially', MPs have been told

Alison Cronin, of the Monkey World rescue centre told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, that the animals can be bought over the counter in pet shops as easily as budgies and goldfish.

Pet monkeys are also increasingly sold online, where they can be bought for as little as £750. Even baby chimps are advertised.

She added: ‘Primates that have highly-specialised needs are being bought and sold to grandmothers, young men and even children because there is absolutely no regulation covering their sale, distribution and care afterwards. ‘It is a huge and significant problem. It’s growing exponentially.’

The RSCPA, the British Veterinary Association and other animal welfare groups are calling for the practice to be banned.

The MPs heard that the keeping of or trade of pet monkeys is already outlawed in seven European countries including Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands but regulations in Britain are ‘toothless’.

In Britain, licenses are needed to keep some species but some of the most popular including marmosets and tamarins are not included in the scheme.

A code of practice exists but is said to be too general to be helpful to members of the public.

For instance, advice the marmosets eat gum, or tree sap in the wild, has led to some well-meaning owners giving their pets Ribena as a sugary substitute.

Pet monkeys are covered by existing laws on animal welfare but a lack of information about how many they are and where they are kept makes them hard to enforce.

Two of the RSPCA’s recent prosecutions only come to light when the monkeys were taken out of the home.

In one case, a man who kept his pet marmosets in his living room put them in his pocket as and drove them around town on a mobility scooter.

And in December, a man from Basingstoke admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a marmoset that had been spotted sitting on shoulder in the pub.

Milo, who weighed less than a quarter what he should, was kept in a birdcage in bedroom and taken on lead to the pub.

The RSPCA favours and outright ban on keeping the animals as pets. Other groups want existing regulations to be tightened up allow those who have the time and money to care for monkeys properly to still be able to do so.

There is also dispute over the scale of the problem.

Lord de Mauley, an environment minister, said he was confident that existing legislation can deal with animal welfare concerns. He added a ban could be disproportionate, difficult to enforce and force the practice underground.

The committee’s report will help inform a review of the code of practice.

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