Most primate experts would advise against getting a monkey as a pet, even if you aren't planning to take him to IKEA.
“Primates require professional, well-managed care,” advises the Wisconsin Primate Research Center. “They are susceptible to both transmitting diseases to humans and contracting diseases from humans.”
As a primate reaches sexual maturity, he or she will often become more aggressive and may start biting or fighting people to establish dominance. With larger primates, these displays can turn dangerous or even deadly.
The case of Charla Nash, who lost her face and hands after being mauled by a friend's 200-pound chimpanzee, blazed through headlines in 2009 and sparked the introduction of several bills to restrict or ban primate pet ownership across the country.
As it currently stands, there is no blanket federal rule on primate ownership in the U.S., though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control did put a stop to the commercial importing of primates in 1975. Without federal guidelines, regulations on keeping monkeys and apes as pets are a patchwork of state and local laws. Some states ban keeping primates outright, while others only prohibit certain species or require a permit.
If you're dead set on getting a monkey, you should probably start making plans to move to Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, or Texas, which are among the few U.S. states with little to no restrictions on pet primates.
Some states will make exceptions in their laws for helper monkeys, which are capuchins trained to assist disabled people. These monkeys can perform lots of everyday tasks, from turning on lights to changing CDs to feeding their companions.
Check out the list below to see where your state stands on monkey possession:
Alabama: No restrictions, no permit required to own a monkey. (Ala. Administrative Code 220-2-.26)
Alaska: Chimpanzees prohibited, though people that kept a pet chimpanzee before January 2010 were allowed to obtain permits for their animals. (Alaska Administrative Code 5.92.029-030)
Arizona: No keeping orangutans, gorillas or chimpanzees as pets, unless you are moving into the state and already have one – then you must apply for a permit. Other kinds of primates can be kept, as long as the animals are healthy. (Ariz. Administrative Code R12-4-405; 4-426)
Arkansas: No regulations of monkey ownership.
California: Ban on private ownership of non-human primates, except for research and assistance animals and primates shown as parts of exhibitions. (California Code Regs. 14.671)
Colorado: Ban on most exotic animals kept for non-commercial reasons, including non-human primates. (2 Colo. Code Regs. 406-11)
Connecticut: Against the law for people to possess “potentially dangerous animals,” including great apes. Primates weighing less than 35 pounds at adulthood and brought into the state before October 2003 are not banned. (Conn Gen. Stat. 26-40a)
Delaware: No possession of wild animals not found in Delaware without a permit. (Del. Code 3.7201)
Florida: Ban on owning chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and baboons unless the primate was in possession before August 1980. Smaller primates, including howler monkeys and macaques, may only be owned with a permit from the state. (Fla. Administrative Code Ann. 68A-6)
Georgia: Strict permit requirements for primates. Capuchin monkeys allowed, with permit, as 'helper monkeys'. (Georgia Code 27.5.4)
Hawaii: Primates not allowed for possession outside of research, zoos or wildlife sanctuaries. (Hawaii Administrative Rules 4.6.71)
Idaho: Permit required. (Idaho Code 36-701)
Illinois: Ban on private possession of primates, unless the primate was obtained before January 2011. (Ill. Comp. Stat. 720.585)
Indiana: Primates allowed.
Iowa: Ban on “dangerous animals,” including non-human primates. (Iowa Code Ann. 717.F)
Kansas: Primates allowed.
Kentucky: Ban on “inherently dangerous exotic animals,” including non-human primates. (Ky. Administrative Regs 301.2.082)
Louisiana: Ban on keeping non-human primates as pets. (La. Administrative Code 76.115)
Maine: Permits required for exotic animals; approved on a case by case basis, according to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Maryland: Nonhuman primates banned as pets. (Md. Criminal Law Code Ann. 10-621)
Massachusetts: Monkeys cannot be kept as pets. (Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife)
Michigan: Pet monkeys are allowed with permit – but a bill was introduced in September 2012 that would ban private possession of nonhuman primates.
Minnesota: Ban on keeping nonhuman primates. (Minn. Statutes 346.155)
Mississippi: Certain primates deemed “inherently dangerous to humans” are banned: gibbons, orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, macaques, mandrills, baboons. (Miss. Code Ann. 49.8.5)
Missouri: No restrictions on keeping primates.
Montana: Nonhuman primates allowed, must have permits and health certificates. (Montana Statutes 87-5-701 to 725)
Nebraska: No restrictions on keeping primates.
Nevada: No permit required for possessing, transporting, importing or exporting primates. (Nev. Administrative Code 503.140)
New Hampshire: Ban on nonhuman primate possession, except for animal exhibitors. (N.H. Code Admin R Fis 804.04)
New Jersey: Ban on keeping monkeys and apes as pets, as “potentially dangerous species.” (N.J. Administrative Code 7.25-4.8)
New Mexico: Ban on monkeys and apes as pets. (New Mexico Department of Game & Fish)
New York: Ban on all nonhuman primates, except for designated companion animals for paralyzed persons (N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law 11)
North Carolina: Restriction of dangerous animals allocated to cities. (N.C. Sess. Laws 160A-187)
North Dakota: Permit and clean bill of health required to import primates. (N.D. Administrative Code 48-12-01)
Ohio: No permits required to possess primates; permits required to bring them into the state.
Oklahoma: Permits required for primates. (Okla. Stat. 29.4-107)
Oregon: Exotic pets, including nonhuman primates, were banned in 2010; residents that had permits for primates before law went into effect allowed to keep them. Service monkeys are exempt from the ban.
Pennsylvania: Ban on private possession of all nonhuman primates. (Penn. Code 58.137.1)
Rhode Island: Permit required (R.I. General Laws 4-18-3)
South Carolina: No laws restricting possession of primates.
South Dakota: Permits required to possess and import nonhuman primates. (S.D. Administrative Regulations 12:68:18:03)
Tennessee: Certain primates banned: gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons, siamangs, mandrills, baboons. Other monkeys not regulated by the state. (Tenn. Code Ann. 70-4-403)
Texas: License required for great apes – gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, baboons. No regulations for monkeys. (Texas Health & Safety Code)
Utah: Nonhuman primates banned. (Utah Administrative Code R657-3-24)
Vermont: Nonhuman primates and other animals cannot be possessed without a permit – but no personal possession permits for exotic pets are ever actually issued to individuals, according to animal advocacy group Born Free, making it an effective ban. (Vermont Statutes 10.4709)
Virginia: No state requirements for possessing nonhuman primates.
Washington: Nonhuman primates banned. (Rev. Wash. Code 16.30)
West Virginia: No state laws governing exotic animals.
Wisconsin: No restrictions on nonhuman primates.
Wyoming: Primates banned, according to Born Free: “according to WY Fish and Game, it is unlawful to possess all other exotic animals such as, tigers, lions, primates, wolves, bears, etc.”
To contact the editor, e-mail: