Anti-Primate Legislation

I was hoping this subject would go away. It affects me and my family directly. Someone wants to pass a law that will make it illegal for us to leave this state. I know which direction this is headed. The next thing they will try to do is to make it illegal for us to live here also. Then we will not be able to leave or live. When you find out that you are targeted, then sometimes the first instinct is to lie low and not draw attention. Maybe they'll forget we exist. Maybe they'll pass us over. Maybe if we mark the door with blood, the angel of death will take somebody else's son and not mine.

But that's the wrong way to go, The right thing to do is to speak up.

Home Movie Clip

Bow turned seven on February 16th. We had a nice party for him, and he enjoyed the day. The following day, we found out that in Connecticut a woman had been mauled by a chimp. The next thing you know a new bill has been proposed, limiting the rights of primate owners -- and of the primates who depend on them.

While Bow has always lived in the state of his birth, when we were younger, we did travel together, crossing many state borders and going on long road trips. The destinations included grandma's house and a few university towns where I attended linguistics conferences. The pending legislation would have made all those trips impossible.

It would also mean that if I wanted to take a job out of state, I would not be able to do so, It would mean that if I wanted to move to another state for the sake of my daughter's education, I could not do so.

To be honest, I have no real intention of moving. Maybe I am blowing the significance of this particular legislation all out of proportion in terms of what it would mean for me and my family. Maybe it will hardly touch us. But it feels really bad to know that we are being targeted, and that our options and choices are being slowly whittled away.

I do ape language research and Bow is not a pet. From a legal perspective, however, Bow and I have no special privileges. We have no institutional support. I am not a zoo, a primate sanctuary or even an established breeder. I don't have any special license or permit. I chose to live in a country and a state where primate legislation is the least intrusive. I don't want to join an institution, nor do I think that institutional affiliation would shield me and Bow from the long arm of those who hope to drive all chimpanzees into sanctuaries, where they are expected to live out their lives, waiting to die, and producing no young. I know what happened to Sally Boysen and her apes. Being an established, tenured professor does not guarantee safety for the apes you know and care for.

Are chimpanzees dangerous? Of course, they are. Can they kill or maim? The answer is yes. So do humans, horses, dogs and many other domestic animals. Is keeping a chimpanzee in the home a good idea for every family? Of course not. If you do have a chimpanzee, does this require taking special precautions to make sure innocent bystanders aren't hurt? Yes, it does. I've taken those measures, not because I was forced to do so by others, but because I am a responsible person, and I don't want anybody to be hurt.

When you engage in a dangerous activity, you have to use reasonable precautions. You don't shoot aimlessly into a crowd of people, and then blame the gun for going off. If you are not capable of exercising control over the danger, then you should not engage in the activity.

In every life, danger is unavoidable, but different activities involve differing levels of risk. We have a choice to engage in or desist from highly dangerous activities. That choice should be made by the individual. In a country where everyone is protected from all forms of danger, people couldn't ski, or hang-glide, go skateboarding or race speedy cars. They couldn't fly private planes or build rockets in their garage. They couldn't experiment with novel combinations of herbs or chemicals to cure disease. They couldn't do research, unless someone in a high place had okayed it first. They couldn't arrive at difficult decisions about their own family and its priorities, before getting the okay of a committee or a government overseer.

When people hear that I do ape language research, they often assume that I must be liberal. Well, I am liberal, in the sense that I have an open mind, an open heart and boundless curiosity about the world we live in. I am not, however, the kind of liberal that wants to pass more laws to make the world safer and safer until all danger disappears -- and life along with it.

If you support Project Bow, please write to your Senator and ask him or her to vote against the Captive Primate Safety Act.

My book: When Sword Met Bow

More by this Author


Comments 39 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

I can only offer my sympathy. (I live in South Carolina, not the most forward-thinking or even democratic state; being a so-called "right to work" state, I wonder wheter Bow might not have more rights than some workers here.) Your work with Bow has delighted and enlightened me; to think that this work could be jeopardized by idiots is saddening. I understand your outrage.


hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA

Hey Aya Katz! When that crazy old lady and her aging chimp "husband" thing went down (basically the old boy went ape-shit and tried to kill one or her friends, right?) I figured you'd sound off about it at hubpages. I too am not a big fan of passing law after law limiting what everyone can do because stupid people do stupid things. I'd be more in favor of a law limiting only stupid people to living in padded houses, not reproducing, not owning animals of any kind, and not being allowed to drive a car or buy alcohol no matter how old they are. Your stupidity factor would be on your ID card. Everyone starts life with an OK rating. Whenever you do something stupid your stupid rating goes up, and if it's too high you are restricted from doing things that are dangerous to stupid people and those arround them. I carried a pen knife in my pocket in school starting in about second grade, and I used it often for violent terrorist things like peeling apples, cutting ticks in two, shaving warts off myself and others, cleaning my fingernails etc., with nary a mishap. Even in the 70's when I was a camp counselor, one counselor confiscated all the knives from 10 and 11 year old scouts because one scout accidentally cut themself, so knives are too dangerous for the kids to have. When I was a little scout we had knife safety. Duh.


Ef El Light profile image

Ef El Light 7 years ago from New York State

Constrained obstructions contravene the course

Of Primates when a state misuses force. 


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Teresa McGurk, your sympathy and understanding mean a lot to me. Thanks so much for the support!

Hot Dorkage, wow, this is so encouraging! Your example with the pen knife is right on point! (Don't know about that stupidity rating, though, as what government worker would be competent enough to make the assessment?)

F.L. Light, thanks for the couplet. 


vida 7 years ago

A little help for those of you in NY, i encourage you to write to the senators as well. This absolutely shouldn't pass. Please read up on the bill and speak up!

Gillibrand, Kirsten E. - (D - NY) Class I 531 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-4451

E-mail: kirsten_gillibrand@gillibrand.senate.gov

Schumer, Charles E. - (D - NY) Class III 313 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510 (202) 224-6542 Web Form: schumer.senate.gov/new_website/contact.cfm


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Vida, thanks for providing this information!


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 7 years ago from Texas

I am sorry to hear about this. Legislating where you can be seems rather ineffective. It would be far more effective to be sure that people who keep any large, potentially dangerous animal are well educated in that animal's needs and behaviors and have demonstrated an ability to provide for the animal and to manage it's behaviors.

Regulating whether or not the animal can cross a state line seems rather pointless.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Aya, that sucks. I would write, yet I am not a citizen, so this does not help...


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Hi Aya - from the other side of the world, even though I can't write in, I do hope there's some way that this scenario changes. All of us who avidly follow your research on Bow know just how precious this is to you. My sincere support!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shalini and Misha, your support and understanding mean a lot to me, even though you are not eligible to vote here. I think that the opinions of everyone do matter, and that we see US domestic policy being influenced also by what others overseas believe. Sometimes it is a bad thing, but in this case, I think all good thoughts help.

JustmeSuzanne, you are right that a law about crossing state borders is an odd response to something that happened within a single state. However, that seems to be how politics works. This bill does not stand in isolation. It is part of a long, ongoing campaign. It grinds slowly on, but the net effect is to make it impossible for people and chimpanzees to work together and for any effort to build a bridge of understanding between the two species to fail.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Good luck with that, Aya - like Shalini, I can offer little but hope and good wishes. Understanding our cousins is extremely important - as a cynic, I suspect that they do not really want us to understand the great apes. We might have to actually do something about destroying their environment.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

I think what bothers me most about this kind of legislation is knowing that it is "fear based legislation." Fear based legislation often happens when a sensationalized and horrific news event brings the general topic to light. Then, lobbyist groups with their own agendas jump on board, and get the ear of some Congressional staff idiots who proposed such garbage.

When I first heard the news story, my gut reaction thought was that this would spur those who take advantage of such fears to do just this, and that "you watch" someone will sue big time -- which her family immediately did. Then, as I listened more to the story, something didn't seem right about the woman who was raising the animal drugging him to keep him under control, the environment he was in, etc. The story should have been about personal responsibility, and so many other things.

It's symptomatic of a bigger problem too -- that more and more of our rights and freedoms are being taken away and few notice.

I hope that everyone reading Aya's very important hub will share it and call as well as write their Senator. Two other suggestions: (1) Include a link to one of the lists with phone numbers and addresses of all legislators -- because people will do what is easiest. Not having to look for who and where they should contact will encourage them to act, not agree, think they'll do it later and forget; (2) Post this hub on social sites, with an active online poll and petitions.

Don't think just because you aren't a citizen, or don't live in this country that you can't influence and help, you can help spread the word.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Sufi, thanks for your support. It has occurred to me before, too, that among those who underestimate chimpanzee intelligence, there are some who simply don't know and others who do know, but don't wish to spread the knowledge.

Jerilee, thanks for your warm, encouraging and supportive comment. I will try to implement you suggestion about a list of people to call. It's a good idea! Yes, this is fear based legislation and it is being manipulated by a minority with an agenda, just as you say. I'm so thankful for the response here on Hubpages. It's good to know that not everyone is taken in by the media coverage.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

I've just added a link to the Senate's contact list.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

I forgot to add, people should also be emailing them too.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Jerilee! Every bit helps.


Raven King profile image

Raven King 7 years ago from Cabin Fever

Wow. I wish you the best, Aya.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thanks, Raven.


mistyhorizon2003 profile image

mistyhorizon2003 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

Good luck Aya, and I mean this most sincerely. It would be tragedy if scaremongering stopped your wonderful work in any way, shape or form.


helenathegreat profile image

helenathegreat 7 years ago from Manhattan

Very, very interesting hub. Thank you for decanting some of these ideas at HubPages for us. I tend to be against keeping wild animals -- especially apes -- in homes, but of course there are always situations where pretty anything can be acceptable. Should it be difficult to legally own these animals? Yes. Should it be entirely illegal? Probably not. Like you and everyone else are saying: knee-jerk legislation stemming only from fear will inevitably be irrational.

I grew up very close to Stamford, CT and was familiar with the chimp as a "local hero" of sorts. As far as I understand, though, his owner did not do anything to specifically encourage the attack; it was an unfortunate incident that escalated until her friend got there, when the chimp mauled the friend in his escalated state. Essentially (in my mind), the only mistake she made was in owning the chimp in the first place.

What do you think of this, Aya? I am certainly not as educated on this issue as I'm sure you are. What should she have done to prevent this?

I'm really interested to hear what you have to say. A lot of the talk surrounding this incident about chimps sounds like the way uninformed people talk about pit bulls, so I've been trying very hard not to judge the owning of chimps since I just don't know enough.

For example, if I were to adopt a dangerous dog (not just the breed being dangerous, but the actual dog known to be dangerous), I would be able to read its body language and other indicators. I have no doubt that I could anticipate any canine aggression just because of my experience with it. Are chimps predictable in the same way? They are much more intelligent than dogs, much less domesticated, and have none of the ingrained desire to please.

I'm certainly going to go read some of your other hubs about Bow, and thanks again for your unique contribution to HubPages!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Mistyhorizon, thanks for the good thoughts. I think every positive input is important.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Helena, I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I also welcome your questions, and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.

You say that it should be difficult to own chimpanzees. It's not a matter of should. It is difficult. It's the nature of reality that taking care of a chimpanzee involves a tremendous investment of time and money. When you go in to try to adopt a chimpanzee, you will be tested. Everyone likes a cuddly baby chimpanzee. But few people can cope with an older individual. Before I was allowed to adopt an infant, I was asked to interact with an eight year old. I was asked to watch how even older individuals behaved in a group. I was made aware of the long lifetime commitment. It was made clear to me that I couldn't just put Bow in daycare and go off to work all day. I had to be with him all day long, or have another person that he trusted sit in for me. For chimpanzees, people are not interchangeable. Relationships are built over time. (I think this is true for humans, too, but that's a subject for a different hub.)

We don't need special laws to make sure that people understand the commitment and the risk that is involved when a chimpanzee becomes part of their life. We can educate the public through an open exchange of information. Most people don't want to hurt others. Most people have good intentions. When they understand the enormity of the commitment, most will voluntarily refrain from chimpanzee ownership.

I can't second guess what happened in Stamford, because I wasn't there. The point of this hub was not to pass judgment over a situation that I'm not familiar with.

However, I can make the following general statements that might be heplful:

* chimpanzees should not be drugged with mind-altering substances in order to secure their cooperation. Drugs that are meant to produce a particular state of mind often backfire even when prescribed for humans. To try to use them in order to control a chimpanzee is a very bad idea.

* a chimpanzee who is cooperative and friendly with people he knows well will not necessarily be kind to strangers, casual acquaintances or interlopers.

* chimpanzees like very obvious dominance hierarchies. When their owners have friends over, this creates a situation where an "outsider" is being treated like an equal. This bothers chimps. They sometimes try to provoke a fight in order to establish who is really dominant.

* group politics amongs chimps is complicated. It is easier to deal with them one on one.

These are general rules of thumb. I hope to write more about these issues in other hubs.


dana825 profile image

dana825 7 years ago from Chicago

From a fellow animal lover, I am sorry. You are right that other animals are just as dangerous, horses are my forte and I know they are very dangerous for those who don't know what they are doing, the same as with chimps. Dogs can be dangerous no matter what. It doesn't stop me from being around either of them but none of these animals should have legislation passed against them.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dana, thanks for your understanding and support. I think people who are involved with animals understand both the joys and the risks involved. With every animal it is important to have realistic expectations, neither underplaying real dangers nor demonizing the species.


Erick Smart 7 years ago

I know there are plenty of primates which have not caused any problems but there does come a time when an animal has no business being a pet.

Recently in my area a moutain lion was rescued from a home where he lived with a person who was a vegetarian and thought the animal should be too. This could have become a large tragedy but likely in the end it worked out ok.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Erick, thank you for your comment.

It's certainly bizarre for anyone to expect a mountain lion to become a vegetarian. This shows a complete disregard for the natural needs of the animal. However, the fact that some people with unusual ideologies, such as extreme vegetarianism to the point of requiring this of carnivores, have an unrealistic approach to life and to animals is no reason to pass laws against private ownership of exotics. I myself do not have a mountain lion, nor do I plan to acquire one, but if I did, I would look into an appropriate diet for that species. I expect most responsible people would.


ngureco profile image

ngureco 7 years ago

Sorry, Aya Katz. I know what this means to you.

You do ape language research and Bow is not a pet. What they need do is to set up an authority that will license and provide insurance on deserving cases of individual researchers, universities, research institutions and zoos.

A single Connecticut woman was mauled by a chimp? In my country, thousands of innocent people are killed every year by charging elephants, buffalos, crocodiles and hippos, and no one will ever dare raise a finger to the government that owns wildlife.

I do support keeping of chimps (or any other wild animal) for research and education. But science does not support keeping of chimps as pets, for entertainment or for commercial purposes – but rather they should be left to live in their natural environment.

The reason they are using that a single Connecticut woman was mauled by a chimp has no logic. If the same US government will license ordinary citizens to own guns, why can’t they license individual researchers to own apes?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Ngureco, thanks for your comment. I appreciate your support of my research.

However, licensing researchers would probably put me out of commission, as all such schemes tend to put unreasonable budgetary constraints on researchers. Many of my colleagues did meet very stringent Federal laws that allowed them to get government funding for their research -- but when the government funding was cut -- their apes were taken away from them, and their research was discontinued. The case of Sally Boysen is just one example.

Because I am a private person pursuing research at my own expense, I am able to provide Bow with everything he needs at a fraction of the cost that any institution would have to bear in order to support a similar project. I am able to keep going even when new funds do not come in.

I agree with you that there is no logic in passing this law because of a single case. However, this is being done with regard to other species -- even some breeds of dogs in some states -- and all based on scare tactics.


cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 7 years ago from North Carolina

I hope you are successful in this. I live in a state, where they will shoot rather than support animals like this. It is getting worse in the US, I don't know what the word democracy means anymore. Too many unnecessary laws.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Cgull8m, thanks for your comment and your support. I agree. There are too many unnecessary laws.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

I guess it's like when you hear a story about a pit bull terrier. One mauls a person and suddenly they want to outlaw pit bulls. Suddenly, pit bulls become like the devil.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dolores, yes, it's quite a lot like that.


Paper Moon profile image

Paper Moon 7 years ago from In the clouds

Has the legislation passed yet?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Paper Moon, no, it has not passed yet. It was passed by the House and is currently awaiting senate action. The senate next meets on July 6th.

You can keep track of activities concerning the bill here:

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h111...


Hoppy 7 years ago

Hi -

I was curious as to your take on the reported welfare implications of allowing apes to be owned as pets. I've heard that many places that sell apes take them from their mothers very early and the practice also supports black-market trade in primates


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hoppy, thanks for your comment.

Black market trade in primates is not what is being targeted by this legislation. This legislation targets people who already own apes legally. The goal is to prevent them from leaving their own state.

As for taking chimpanzees from their mothers at a very early age, the practice is no different from separating a human mother from her biological child at birth, when the child is being offered for adoption.

I adopted Bow when he was a month old. He was given an opportunity to nurse for the first month, so as to develop a strong immune system. After that, he was put on formula. I am the only mother he remembers. I stayed with Bow twenty-four hours a day during his infancy and toddlerhood, and am still with him twenty-four hours a day most days, with only short separations of a few hours while someone else watches him for me. Most human children are torn from their mothers much earlier.


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

According to govtrack.us, nearly two years after you published this Hub, this legislation has yet to be voted on by the Senate. Aya, do you have any information about the current conversations regarding this legislation?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Sally's Trove, thanks for asking. I have heard nothing. Nothing seems to have happened, as far as I am aware. Sometimes, no news is good news.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks Author

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