If you've seen The Daily Show recently, you know about the latest moral panic: pet chimps run amok! And like with so many moral panics in the past, Congress is using it to punish businesspeople. Check out the Daily Show video here.
The House of Representatives has used the media frenzy around the Connecticut woman who was gruesomely injured by a pet chimpanzee to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act. The bill, if passed by the Senate, would ban the interstate trade of "non-human" primates, with a few exceptions, such as if you're a licensed veterinarian or working for a nonprofit purpose.
The sale of monkeys as pets is by no means a big industry. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 15,000 "chimps and smaller monkeys" are kept as pets in the U.S, and 22 states either prohibit or tightly regulate the monkey trade within their borders. But even if it's not a large business, why should a few attention-grabbing headlines lead to its prohibition?
Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, who spoke on the House floor in opposition to the bill, made this point:
In the decade from 1995 to 2005, there were only 132 documented incidences between captive primates and humans. Of that total, only 80 involved pet bites. That's 8 bites per year.
The Humane Society estimates that there are 74.8 million owned dogs in the US, and that 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Comparing that to 132 monkey bites out of 15,000 monkeys, monkeys are far less likely to bite than dogs. The likelihood is even lower if you only look at monkey bites caused by pets.