RSPCA calls for primate pet ban
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has called for a ban on keeping primates as pets after a court case in which a West Midlands couple who sold a severely malformed marmoset rather than take it to a vet were disqualified from keeping animals for life. Mrs Sheryll Murray MP, the Member of Parliament for South East Cornwall, has also announced that she will push for a ban.
Disturbing film footage showing the marmoset named 'Mikey' attempting to walk on bent legs and being unable to climb was shown to Dudley Magistrates Court. The offence first came to light after the couple sold the baby monkey to a pensioner while it was in a hamster cage in the back of a car in a chip shop car park. The pensioner took it to a local exotic pet dealer, who alerted the RSPCA.
Lee Powell, 50, and Julie Ann Jones, 41, both of Sunderland Drive, Stourbridge, were found guilty of causing the animal unnecessary suffering. Both were ordered to pay more than ￡5,000 in costs and compensation and do 300 hours of unpaid work. The marmoset, who was found to have advanced bone disease, seven fractures and a broken tail, had to be put down.
RSPCA inspectors dealt with 315 incidents involving 645 pet primates between 2001 and 2010. "Welfare issues" were cited in half of the incidents and legal action was taken in six cases, resulting in two convictions. Complaints about primates are four to twelve times higher than those concerning more conventional pets.
“Primates are so complicated and have such complex needs and most primate owners, unless they have very specialist training, cannot look after them properly," said RSPCA Primatologist Lisa Riley.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) brought in a code of practice for primate keepers in 2010. However, the code is "non-binding" and animal charities have pointed out that it is largely unknown. Furthermore, many primates are illegally traded due to endangered species protection status.