ADVOCACY: POSITION STATEMENTS
Featured: Valentina Rose from Chimp Haven
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance’s mission is to advance and advocate for the welfare of captive primates. As our advocacy programs grow, we are proud to use our voice on behalf of the 700+ nonhuman primates living at NAPSA member sanctuaries.
- Private Ownership of Primates
- Performing Primates
- Service Monkeys
- True Sanctuaries vs. Pseudo Sanctuaries
- How to Start a Sanctuary
Private Ownership of Primates
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) is opposed to the private ownership of primates. The private ownership of primates is never in the best interest of the animal or the owner.
Unlike dogs and cats, apes and monkeys are not domesticated animals. Non-human primates are extremely social animals whose normal development requires the company of others of their own kind. Ideally, primates should live in the wild. Their natural habitats include species-typical social groups that allow them to learn from their families and have a rich emotional life. In reality, however, there is an active industry that breeds primates to sell as pets in human homes.
As infants, primates in the pet trade are removed from their mothers years before they would naturally separate, which causes psychological suffering that manifests throughout their entire life. Teeth are often removed for ease of handling, which can limit the foods they can eat. Qualified veterinary care for pet primates can be difficult, if not impossible, to find.
Primates are inquisitive animals whose proper care requires daily mental stimulation and extensive physical activity, which is often impossible for the average household to provide. Primates kept in human homes are rarely, if ever, monitored by animal welfare officials, which means they are often kept in unsuitable living conditions resulting in neglect, mistreatment, and myriad psychological and physical ailments that can lead to death. There are a range of zoonotic diseases that are transmitted by primates and can be harmful, even fatal, to humans.
Once primates reach adolescence, which can be just a few years into a 40+ year lifespan, they inevitably become too unmanageable to handle. Primates can and will bite. They have strong jaws and sharp teeth, and bites can result in significant and potentially fatal injuries to humans. Realizing that living with an adult primate is not sustainable, owners often seek to surrender their pets or are forced to surrender them due to a threat to public safety.
Many primates that were privately owned end up living in roadside zoos, recycled as breeders to produce the next generation of ill-fated pets, or in other abusive situations. In the best cases, former pets may end up in a NAPSA member sanctuary, where they live their remaining years in an enriched environment more typical to their species. Even in sanctuary, former pets often struggle with learning how to socialize with other primates and many exhibit abnormal behaviors for the rest of their lives.
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) is opposed to the use of primates for entertainment. The use of primates in entertainment is harmful and cruel.
As experts in the field of primate care, we respectfully ask the public not to support public events featuring trained monkeys and apes.
While such performances may seem amusing on the surface, the primates used in these spectacles are poorly treated. Although the records of many animal rental operators are generally less than stellar, and training and housing conditions can be incredibly stressful (and often abusive), the simple fact that primates are forced to dress up and perform on cue in a terribly unnatural situation is reason enough to avoid such events.
The entire lifetime of a primate is negatively affected when they are exploited for entertainment. As infants, they are removed from their mothers at a very early age — years before they would naturally separate. They are trained using methods that intimidate and inhibit their innate behaviors. Even then, the intelligence and unpredictable nature of these wild animals means that they often can only be used for a short time as actors before they become too independent, unmanageable, and dangerous. Primates are then deemed useless to the entertainment industry, and sold into situations that range from uncomfortable to downright harmful. The lucky ones are able to spend the remaining years of their life in a primate sanctuary.
NAPSA was founded in 2010 by the directors of seven of the leading chimpanzee sanctuaries on the continent. In our member sanctuaries, we care for over 730 primates, many of whom were formerly used in entertainment. We see how primates are forever damaged by the work forced upon them, and we look forward to the day when such archaic practices are no longer permitted.
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) is opposed to the use of monkeys as service animals. There is no justification for forcing monkeys to serve humans.
NAPSA was founded in 2010 by the directors of seven of the leading primate sanctuaries on the continent. In our member sanctuaries, we care for over 730 monkeys and apes, many of whom bear the physical and psychological scars of private ownership.
While the relationship between a disabled human and a service monkey may appear mutually beneficial on the surface, the monkeys used in this industry have sacrificed their health and general well-being. Unlike dogs and cats, monkeys are not domesticated animals and cannot be made so in one generation or twenty. Painful training methods, including electric shock packs, are utilized in an attempt to control these naturally independent and inquisitive wild animals. Non-human primates are extremely social animals whose normal development requires the company of others of their own kind. Ideally, primates should live in the wild. Their natural habitats include species-typical social groups that allow them to learn from their families and have a rich emotional life.
These monkeys’ lives of servitude begin in a zoo breeding colony where, as infants, helper monkeys are removed from their mothers years before they would naturally separate, causing psychological suffering that manifests throughout their entire lives. They are subjected to total teeth extraction for “ease of handling”, which drastically limits the foods they can eat and often leads to malnutrition.
Primates living in human homes have complex and demanding needs. Monkeys are inquisitive animals who require daily mental stimulation and extensive physical activity, which is impossible for even an able-bodied person to provide. Primates kept in human homes are rarely monitored by animal welfare officials. Experienced veterinary care for primates is difficult to find. Once primates reach adolescence, which can be just a few years into a 40+ year lifespan, they become unmanageable. Primates can and will bite. They have strong jaws, and bites – even from toothless monkeys – result in painful injuries to humans.
Many public and private organizations have realized the fallacies inherent in the service monkey industry. In 2011, the U. S. Department of Justice ruled that monkeys are not service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not fund service monkeys for veterans. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also oppose primates as service animals.
True Sanctuaries vs. Pseudo-Sanctuaries
The North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) is dedicated to educating the public about characteristics of reputable sanctuaries, as well as attributes of facilities that should be avoided. Do not support facilities that do not operate with the best interests of animals in their care as their first priority.
The mission of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) is to advance and advocate for the welfare of captive primates. NAPSA member sanctuaries care for over 730 nonhuman primates retired from the entertainment, biomedical research, and exotic pet industries, and are experts in providing enriched lifetime care to captive animals. As there are no regulations in the United States that manage who may refer to themselves as a sanctuary, it is important for NAPSA members to distinguish themselves from other facilities who house captive animals but who do not operate with the same high standards, and may even exploit and harm the animals in their care.
It can be difficult to distinguish pseudo-sanctuaries from reputable sanctuaries. There are a number of key characteristics the public may look for when trying to make this determination.
- Operate with the best interests of the animals in their care as their first priority.
- Are non-profit organizations.
- Do not breed, sell or trade the animals in their care.
- Do not allow public contact with captive wildlife.
- Do not remove animals from their enclosures or sanctuary property for exhibition, education, research, or commercial purposes.
- Have limited public visitation.
- Do not exploit the animals in their care. Examples include: photo opportunities with animals, hands-on interactions, or training animals to perform.
- Are fiscally responsible and able to provide lifetime care for all animals at the sanctuary.
- Advocate on behalf of the species in their care.
- Are licensed, accredited and/or overseen by outside organizations. This may include the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, the United States Department of Agriculture, and/or NAPSA.
How to Start a Sanctuary
NAPSA and its member sanctuaries are approached often by people seeking advice on how to start their own sanctuary. Although there is no precise formula for the successful founding and maintenance of a sanctuary, here are some of the most important things to keep in mind:
- Species: Clarify what types of animals you want to care for. Do you have experience caring for the species in mind? Most importantly, is there a need for more sanctuaries to house this species?
- Land: You will need to find property that has appropriate zoning, with proper permits, in a climate that is suitable for the species you wish to rescue. Local communities are not always supportive of introducing non-native animals to an area.
- Nonprofit Status: Even if you are independently wealthy, your sanctuary will need to obtain both state and 501(c)(3) federal nonprofit status in order to reduce taxes, provide legitimacy, and accept tax deductible donations. This will require that you form a board of directors, create a mission statement, and write bylaws. As a nonprofit, the organization does not belong to you, rather you are an employee of the organization.
- Fundraising: Prepare to spend much time and energy fundraising for your sanctuary, both before it opens and constantly once it has opened. Animal care, payroll, expansions and maintenance are expensive.
- Develop policies and procedures: Your sanctuary will need a manual of policies that dictates how the organization functions. This provides assurance and protection to you, the organization, its donors and its employees. This is also key to ensuring animals are safe when and if the sanctuary faces natural disasters and other emergencies.
- Finances: You will need professional guidance from accountants to prepare your financial statements, submit your taxes and guide your organization forward. As founder, be sure to never invest more of your own money than you would be comfortable walking away from.
- Licensing and accreditation: You will need the outside approval of state, county, and industry animal care experts in order to permit volunteers on site, and to prove to your donors, foundations and those placing animals with you that you are reputable.
- People skills: You got into this for a love of primates, but know that you will spend most of your time managing and interacting with people, whether that is employees, volunteers, donors, contractors, the sanctuary’s board, etc. Running a sanctuary is no different than running any other business – you need HR skills, practical knowledge, confidence, and the ability to seek help when needed.
- Know how to say no: You will not be able to save every animal. In order for your sanctuary to be sustainable and run responsibly, you will need to say “no” if the sanctuary does not have the capacity to take in new animals.
- Learn from experts: Network with multiple people experienced in founding and running sanctuaries. Learn from their mistakes and take their advice seriously. They will know the answers to any of the questions listed here – and more!
Private Ownership of Primates
White Paper: Personal Possession of Non-Human Primates, Association of Zoos and Aquariums
The Phenomenon of Monkeys as ‘Surrogate Children’, Linda J. Howard
Private Ownership of Nonhuman Primates, International Primatological Society
Significant Zoonotic Disease of Non-Human Primates, Walter Reed Army Institute
The Use of Primate “Actors” in Feature Films 1990-2013, Brooke Catherine Aldrich
Apes in Media and Commercial Performances, Association of Zoos & Aquariums
Chimpanzees in Entertainment, ChimpCARE
Opposition to the Use of Nonhuman Primates in the Media, International Primatological Society
Apes in Entertainment, Jane Goodall Institute Australia
Impact of Visual Context on Public Perceptions of Non-Human Primate Performers, K. A. Leighty et al.
Monkey See, Monkey Forced to Do, Friends of Animals
True Sanctuaries vs. Pseudo Sanctuaries
Roadside Zoos and Pseudo-Sanctuaries, Eyes on Apes
How to Start a Sanctuary
Running a Sanctuary, Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary