The Government has introduced legislation that will mean only private keepers who meet strict welfare standards are allowed to keep primates in England.
The move has been welcomed by the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association as effectively banning people from keeping primates as pets. Up to 5,000 primates are estimated to be currently kept as pets in the UK.
Under the new legislation, primate keepers will have to apply for a specialist licence from their local authority that will be valid for a maximum of three years. Keepers will face at least one inspection per licensing period to ensure that welfare standards are being met and will be reinspected when renewing their licence.
The new rules, to be introduced under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, are expected to come into force from 2026. Failure to comply with them could result in an unlimited fine or the removal of the primate.
Animal welfare minister Robbie Douglas-Miller said: “Primates are intelligent and curious animals and we’re delivering on our pledge to ban the keeping of these inquisitive creatures as pets.
“It is already an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to keep a primate while not providing for their welfare needs or to cause them unnecessary suffering, and these plans will tighten the rules further.
“We have consistently led the world in raising the bar for animal welfare standards and this legislation is yet another step.”
Both the BVA and the RSPCA have said that they look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the legislation is effective.
BVA president Anna Judson said: “This ban on the keeping of primates as pets in England is good news, and I hope the devolved nations will quickly follow suit. The British Veterinary Association has been clear with the Government, that the needs of primates are so complex they can rarely be met in a domestic environment.
“It is therefore vital that the proposed licensing system goes far enough and the ban is able to be properly enforced. We urge the Government to work closely with veterinary and zoological organisations to get this right and ensure the welfare of these animals isn’t compromised.”
Dr Ros Clubb, head of the RSPCA’s Wildlife Department, added: “We look forward to working with the UK Government to ensure that the proposed licensing system can be adequately enforced, and will be robust enough to effectively protect the welfare of primates that remain with private keepers until the end of their natural lives.”
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