Great news, Green Monsters! In a significant blow against the exotic pet trade in Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission has just passed a regulation banning primates from being kept as pets, citing concerns over human health and safety. The rule comes into force on Saturday, December, 12th.

Danielle Benza, a primate keeper at the Phoenix Zoo, explained that primates are extremely difficult for private citizens to keep as pets because of their highly specialized care requirements. “They’re social,” she said, “which means you shouldn’t just keep one. They need to be in a  group, they need to be with others of their kind and people typically can’t do that. So they have behavioral and social issues that need to be addressed.”


Common household pets like cats or dogs have been subjected to many centuries of selective breeding that has turned them into the docile family companions we know today. However, the same cannot be said of primates and other wild animals kept as “pets,” who have retained their wild instincts and natural fear of human beings. The unnatural, cramped conditions associated with living in a private home can often cause the animal to become frustrated and lash out at their guardians.

Animal advocacy group Born Free USA has documented over 2,000 cases of attacks, incidents, and escapes involving exotic pets in the last two decades. The organization has warned the public that “the conditions in which privately-owned exotic animals are kept also raise serious animal welfare concerns. Most people cannot provide the special care, housing, diet, and maintenance that exotic animals require. Many animals who have become too difficult for their owners to care for, or who have outgrown their usefulness as ‘pets’ or profit-makers, end up languishing in small pens in backyards, doomed to live in deplorable conditions, or are abandoned or killed. A very few lucky ones are placed in genuine sanctuaries to live out the rest their lives.”

Additionally, exotic animals often carry diseases such as herpes B, salmonellosis, monkeypox and rabies, which can be fatal to human beings. In spite of this, there is unfortunately an exotic pet epidemic sweeping across the U.S. Consider this, there are as many as 7,000 tigers being kept in American backyards … more than the world’s total remaining population of tigers in the wild!

Luckily, the tide is turning against the exotic animal trade, as public awareness of the plight of exotic animals in private homes continues to grow. Arizona’s new ban on primates being kept as pets means that ten states will join twenty-six others that have enacted similar legislation. Let’s hope that the momentum behind this decision will eventually spread to the rest of the country and ensure that no exotic animal will have to suffer the frustration and cruelty of being confined to a backyard again.


Image source: Eric Kilby