Headlines:Government Proposes Ban on Keeping Pet Primates in the UK

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Government Proposes Ban on Keeping Pet Primates in the UK

February 10, 2024

Government Proposes Ban on Keeping Pet Primates in the UK
Government Proposes Ban on Keeping Pet Primates in the UK

The UK government has unveiled a draft statutory instrument under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, aimed at implementing a licensing scheme to ensure the highest welfare standards for primates in England. This initiative is intended to effectively terminate the practice of keeping primates as pets within domestic settings.

The proposed regulations come in response to growing concerns over the welfare of pet primates across the country. According to a report by the RSPCA, there are approximately 5,000 pet primates in the UK, with marmosets being the most commonly kept species, followed by capuchins, tamarins, and squirrel monkeys. However, the welfare of these animals has been a subject of significant worry, with instances of isolation, inadequate housing, and early separation from mothers leading to severe behavioural and health issues.

The Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall reported that every rescued pet primate exhibited behavioural problems, including rocking, pacing, obsessive grooming, and self-biting. Moreover, many suffered from metabolic bone disease and tooth problems due to poor diets and early weaning.

The proposed regulations aim to address these concerns by introducing strict licensing requirements for individuals keeping primates. Under the new regulations, local authorities would be tasked with inspecting premises to ensure compliance with welfare standards before granting licenses. Key provisions include tailored nutrition plans, daily monitoring for signs of distress, registration with a vet, and maintaining detailed records of the primates.

The regulations mandate appropriate living environments for primates, including indoor and outdoor areas with shelter, shade, and natural elements to encourage natural behaviours. Primate owners would also be required to keep the animals in social groups, except in cases of welfare reasons for temporary isolation.

The government's decision to introduce these measures follows a public consultation, where an overwhelming 98.7% of respondents expressed support for a ban on keeping, breeding, acquiring, or selling primates as pets, except under licensed zoo-level standards.

While the proposed regulations have been welcomed by animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has urged the government to ensure proper enforcement of the licensing system. The BVA emphasised the importance of collaboration with veterinary and zoological experts to effectively safeguard the welfare of primates in private ownership.

The draft legislation is subject to parliamentary approval and is expected to come into force by 2026, with existing primate owners given a two-year grace period to comply with the new licensing conditions.

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