Is It Illegal to Have a Pet Monkey?

By Cuteness Team

A monkey as a pet seems cute and appealing but beware, they can, at times, be dangerous and damaging and they may be one other thing - illegal!


Depending upon where you live, owning a monkey can be against the law. There are no federal laws forbidding these simian pals, so the decision has been handed over to each state. But the ruling doesn't end there. Municipalities and counties may also have local laws on keeping these exotic animals even if the state has none.

Some states ban apes but not monkeys, so what's the difference between the two? The one obvious difference is monkeys have tails, apes do not. But there are other differences. For example, apes in trees can swing from branch to branch while monkeys cannot due to their shoulder's bone structure. Instead, monkeys run across the tree branches. A monkey's skeletal structure most resembles that of a dog or cat and they move in the same manner. Monkeys split off the evolutionary trail leading to humans long before the apes!

Animal Organizations have been swaying the minds of states that still allow monkey and chimp (ape) possession, stating they are wild animals and they should be kept in the wild!

My Monkey Tale

A friend of mine owned a spider monkey and I must admit, the monkey was a cute little fellow. Well, one day when nobody was at home, the monkey broke out of his cage and proceeded to tear up the house! Drapes were torn and shredded, furniture was tattered, scratched, and ruined. Food was strewn about the house on walls, floors and ceilings. One horrible mess, and yes, my friend did break his friendship with this simian demolition monkey. He should've considered loaning out the monkey to contractors flipping houses. The monkey would've had the kitchen cabinets torn off the walls before someone could let out a Tarzan yell!

Real Commitment

Owning a pet monkey means COMMITMENT in CAPITAL letters! Monkeys can live twenty to forty years! During those years they require your total attention, especially if conditions or circumstances change. Some monkeys may not take to a new spouse or the birth of a child. And vacations may be out of the question.

And don't think you'll get away with feeding them only bananas. Some of these little simian fellows are on special foods and diets that take some time to prepare. Just routine care and clean up may be more than what you bargained for.

Social Animals

The most important rule to remember is monkeys are social animals and they need a large amount of interaction and attention. A deprived monkey will lead to an animal with severe behavioral and psychological problems. As they mature you may not know which way their emotions may turn. Monkeys feel depression and anger, and bouts of violence are not uncommon.


Keep in mind primates require specialized care and are susceptible to contracting diseases from humans as well as transmitting diseases through scratches and bites.

Always Follow The Law!

You must always follow what state and county decrees regarding exotic animals. To be sure what those laws are you should contact the Division of Wildlife or The Fish and Game Department for your state. Ask them about the local ordinances pertaining to the type of primate you're considering.

Additional Info

This being an intricate topic and observing how everyone harbors their own diverse opinions on the subject, I recommend the following site for more information on owning a pet monkey:

The Primate Info Net, Library and Information Service. National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin - Maidson.

By Tom Matteo