Wildlife belongs in wild: Arizona monkey bites owner, reinforces primates make bad pets

A pet rhesus monkey – on its way to be euthanized – bit its Phoenix owner on the hand last week, stirring up a renewed brouhaha about monkeys and other primates making bad pets.

Rhesus monkey in India/Thinkstock

It doesn’t take a zoological scientist to figure that one out.

While there was no word on why the monkey was being taken to euthanized in the first place, KPHO noted the monkey’s owner was “responsible,” there had been no indication the monkey was going to bite him, and the euthanization, indeed, was carried out.

A few other instances of primates gone ape back up the theory they don’t make ideal pets.

A 200-pound chimpanzee named Travis ripped off a Connecticut woman’s face in a 2009 frenzied attack, CNN reminds us, also noting another horrific happening. A different chimp that got loose from California’s Animal Haven Ranch in 2005 took it upon himself to chew off a guy’s nose and genitals.

Connecticut’s Charla Nash, 55 at the time of the attack, was a friend of Travis’s owner. Nash lost her eyelids, nose, mouth and all her fingers. “Paramedics at the scene said it looked as if Nash’s hands had been through a meat grinder as they picked up her chewed-off fingers from the floor,” reported the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail.

Chimps aren’t the only primates who often lash out, even at their owners.

Timmy Morgan at one time had 10 rescued monkey is her Tucson backyard – monkeys no one else wanted because the pets got older and went from cute and submissive to angry and often unruly.

“They get mean because they’re confused (about) whether they’re monkey or human,” Morgan said in a 2007 interview. And who can blame them when folks dress them up in skirts, shoes, shorts and caps or make them grind organs on Paris street corners.

“So many people pull their teeth so they won’t bite.”

Rhesus monkey/Thinkstock

Dental work is not the answer, said the group Born Free USA in a news released issued in the wake of the Phoenix monkey bite.

Banning such animals as pets is.

“Arizona already restricts the ownership of big cats, orangutans, chimpanzees, and gorillas as pets by requiring a permit. However, people can possess other non-infant primates as ‘pets’ if the animal is free from any zoonotic diseases,” the release quotes Born Free USA CEO Will Travers.

“Legislators must act immediately to ban the private ownership of all nonhuman primates, before someone is seriously injured or killed, or before another animal loses their life. Wildlife belongs in the wild. It is an issue of public safety and animal welfare.”

We’ll agree to that.

In addition to their destructive behavior, primates have the additional benefit of carrying a number of diseases.

“The rhesus (monkey) can actually carry the herpes virus, and that’s why we don’t have the rhesus (monkey) at our zoo,” Wildlife World Zoo’s Kristy Morcom told KPHO news. “When you’re talking primate to human, you are running that risk because we’re so closely related.”

Both Morcom and Morgan also warned that primates tend to get aggressive as they grow older, no matter how finely they are trained when they are young – and no matter how much they appear to bond with their owners or their friends.

Just ask Charla Nash.


What do you think?

Would you ever consider a monkey or other primate as a pet?

Did you know of anyone who had such a pet? What happened?

Should Arizona ban primates as pets?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
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34 Responses to Wildlife belongs in wild: Arizona monkey bites owner, reinforces primates make bad pets

  1. andrew farley says:

    Our pet as kids was a spider monkey named “Hendricks”. We never had a problem with him ever save a couple of times he would relieve himself at the wrong time but other than that, we all loved him.

    • Rynski says:

      that is VERY good to hear a success story – save for the state of the carpet or wherever else hendricks would go to go – and i am happy he did not rip off anyone’s face.
      sounds like a fine monkey indeed.

  2. Alan in Kent WA says:

    Our neighbors in OH had monkeys as pets.  The one monkey would always go around to the surrounding houses and look in the windows.  Of course, the monkey was always raiding cupboards and not being neat about it.  The monkey was finaly given away after biting someone in a neighboring town.  The biggest thing about the monkey was that it was hard to determine who was better behaved, the monkey or the kids!

    • Rynski says:

      ha! how very sad that the monkey and the kids were both equally obnoxious – and how creepy to have a monkey peeping in the window.
      the icky monkey story i have is one kept in a nyc apartment that one day decided to open the window and throw out the TV several stories to the TV’s death.
      thanks for input, alan in kent wa!

  3. libby stubbs says:

    What is the matter with these people? It’s against the law here in the UK to keep pets like this. What’s wrong with having cats and dogs? Wild animals such as primates DO NOT belong in a domestic situation. Crazy people.

    • Rynski says:

      hey libby stubbs – glad the uk has a law against such pets – would be a good thing here, too. i’m with you that primates belong in trees or elsewhere in the wild, rather than in kitchens and living rooms. thanks for comment.

  4. Jenn in Germany says:

    Those monkey keepers are selfish and  don´t know anything about this species! To keep monkeys as pets is a terrible mistake! It´s cruelty to animals and must be prohibited!

  5. Amy says:

    Yes, Libby Stubbs, what is the matter with people these days?  They can’t think for themselves anymore.  They listen to propaganda given to them by animal rights groups without bothering to research the truth.  If they had they would have known that the US Centers for Disease Control stated there has never been a disease spread to humans by a PET primate in the US, that most people only keep the smaller monkeys (some are only 5 pounds), and that owners build very large play areas for their monkeys complete with ropes, swings, shelves, hammocks, toys and other enrichment items.   For those that think they are better off in the wild, pet monkeys are provided with a regular source of food, top vet care, a safe home and a longer life span.  They don’t have to risk slowly suffering from diseases, parasites or injuries, losing their habitat, or being killed by predators or poachers or cars like wild primates do. 

  6. leftfield says:

    Wildlife belongs in the wild.  Have some respect – the planet and all its creatures are not ours to do with as we please.

    • Rynski says:

      amen to that one, leftfield! i just read a report – in the very official and reliable ‘sun’ tabloid, the same one that features bat boy, that the world will depleted of all natural resources by 2030.
      that won’t matter, of course, since we’re blowing up anyway in 2012.

  7. radmax says:

    Monkeys? Really, I don’t know why on earth anyone would keep one as a pet…
    (they stink) and have been known to throw…stuff. That’s enough for me. Dodging flying articles from a bombarding baboon is not my idea of cute and cuddly.
    Didn’t one of these ‘pets’ rip some lady’s face off awhile back?

    • Rynski says:

      you could maybe keep a monkey if you didn’t like your TV or other items you wouldn’t mind being thrown out a window?
      ‘bombarding baboon’ is an excellent example of exquisite alliteration!
      thanks for comment, radmax!

  8. I don’t understand why somebody keep monkeys as pet.They belong in wild.

  9. andrew farley says:

    I guess I’m the only one who likes monkeys. Didja know spider monkeys don’t have thumbs?

    • Rynski says:

      that’s ok – i’m usually the only one who likes rats – hahah.
      how do they button their overalls if they don’t have thumbs?

      • andrew farley says:

        Rats belong in the wild for gawdsakes, what’s wrong with people nowadays?

      • leftfield says:

        I like monkeys.  I like them a lot.  I also like rattlesnakes and Gila Monsters.  I don’t think any of them would be well served to live in my house. 

        Why can’t humans appreciate animals for what they are without feeling the need to handle and possess them?

  10. Wild animals belong in the wild.  Domestic animals don’t belong in the wild.  I don’t see why some people don’t get this.  I say, let all the people who want to own wild animals own them, but don’t let them have access to 911.
    BTW:  I think this youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzu0SQ_2rOE does a solid job at explaining why Travis The Chimp (ME) went bad.

  11. Shelleyda says:

    This article is ridiculous.  The owner is even worse and so is the vet that murdered the monkey. 
    So the monkey bit, I suppose dogs’ don’t bite?  So where should a biting dog be, in the wild too, LOL!  I’m sure this jerk  didn’t even bother to try and  find a home, he was mad because he got bitten, so he killed the monkey.  Family member my butt!  Shame on this Arnott character and shame on the vet.  And shame on the ARA’S for  coming out from under their rocks to equate this with ALL private ownership!  This is the first time in my entire life that I have ever heard of a person killing their animal for no good reason whatsoever!
    I have monkeys, got my first one over 30 years ago, been bitten harder by my horses and even by my cat when I try to worm her.
    Nothing but a bunch of BS and the same propaganda the ARA groups pull on the public.
    They can’t come up with enough bad things about monkeys so it goes on and on and on about the chimp attack.  Give me a break!  Jeesh!  Sick and tired of that story too.

    • leftfield says:

      there was no word on why the monkey was being taken to euthanized in the first place,

      You’re making an assumption of the worst about both the owner and the veterinarian without any evidence to do so.  There is nothing to suggest that the biting incident was the proximate cause for the decision to euthanize.

      Again, the dog is a domesticated animal; no species of primate is domesticated.  You do not domesticate an individual animal or species simply by putting them in an unnatural environment such as a home.  There are generations of selective breeding for the traits of domesticity involved. 

  12. I think that it’d deceptive to point towards chimpanzee attacks and then call for a ban on all monkeys.  It really doesn’t make any sense.  It would be like banning people from owning a kitten because lions are dangerous.  Already Gorillas are banned.  There is a big difference between the larger primates and the smaller ones.

    • leftfield says:

      The domestic cat is, as the name implies, a domesticated animal.  Cats and lions are different species.  There is no place in the wild for the domestic cat and no benefit to the species or the individual animal to being released in the wild.  The issue of attacks aside, primates other than humans are not domesticated animals and there is no benefit to the species or the animal to be held captive in private hands away from the wild.  People who keep primates, large or small, are serving only their own selfish desires and doing no favor to the animal.  No matter how hard you try, you cannot make them into little furry humans, nor can you replicate the environment they have evolved to thrive in.  

  13. ervaughn says:

    What’s up with this article?  And the questions “should people have monkeys?”  What does that have to do with anything?  I think this whole thing is nothing more than a set up which happens every single time a state is going to be targeted for banning exotic pets.  That’s all this is, nobody euthanized their “family” member for pity sakes!  And why if this Arnott idiot did kill his own monkey, would he want the media to know about what he did?  Hmmmm!  Seems rather odd to me and odder still that this article is written all about not having monkeys!  It reeks!

  14. Rick says:


    • Rhesus monkeys can and do carry diseases that are extremely dangerous to humans.   For example, a very high percentage of Rhesus macaques are carriers of the Simian Herpes B Virus which is nearly always fatal to humans.  There is no reliable test for the virus. 

      Yet another reason that monkeys should not be kept as pets. 

  15. citizentoo says:

    When your monkey gets disobedient, spank it.

  16. Rynski says:

    Hiya dear readers –
    MONKIDS, or monkeys adopted and treated as kids, is the topic of a Nat’l Geographic documentary brought to my attention by Katherine MacKinnon, assoc. professor of anthropology at St. Louis University in Mo. She studies capuchin monkeys in the wild and explains in doc. why they do not make good pets.
    Here’s the link to the documentary, ‘My Child is a Monkey’

  17. To Libby Stubbs – I wish you were right and that it actually was illegal to keep primates as pets in the UK – sadly, though, it’s perfectly legal.  There are an estimated 5,000 priovately owned primates in the UK today.  All you need is a license under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act – though there are some primates that you can keep without even getting one of these.   You can read all that we know about the UK primate pet trade here: http://wildfutures.org/sites/default/files/reports/Primate%20Pack_Nov%2009.pdf

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