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.

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.”


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.


Although the photo accompanying this article was originally captioned as a rhesus monkey, a label taken from Thinkstock, we have learned the monkey in the photo is, in fact, a bonnet macaque, according to an e-mail from a concerned citizen. This same e-mail also pointed out that not all non-human primates in captivity came from the wild but rather some are bred in captivity. Those bred in captivity are generally free of disease unless they come in contact with sick humans. I am not naming the concerned citizen since said since did not OK the use of name – but we do thank citizen for add’l info.

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?