Even in their Texas hideout, Jim and Donita Clark are terrified that wildlife agents from their home state of Louisiana will descend on their motorhome and seize the four Capuchin monkeys they’ve reared for 10 years.
Four months ago, the couple fled before authorities showed up at their house for an inspection, and ever since they’ve been hiding out with their monkeys — all of them cooped up in the recreational vehicle.
Exotic animal owners like them say wildlife agents have been cracking down in Louisiana and around the country after high-profile cases of exotic animals getting loose or attacking people. At least six states have also banned the ownership of wild animals since 2005, and Congress is also mulling tighter restrictions.
The couple fears the monkeys will be confiscated and sent to a zoo if they return home to DeRidder, La.
“It’s not what I fought for … to be treated like this,” said Jim Clark, a 60-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran, as tears streaked his face. “It’s not right to think they can come into your house and do this to you with or without a warrant.”
Crackdowns in Louisiana and elsewhere have gained momentum since a man in Ohio released his personal zoo of lions, tigers, zebras, bears and monkeys before killing himself. The 2009 face-mauling of a Connecticut woman by a chimpanzee also highlighted the dangers of keeping wild animals in residential neighborhoods.
“It was a wakeup call to the nation that we should no longer tolerate the reckless decision-making by a small number of people,” said Wayne Pacelle, the head of the Humane Society of the United States.
Veterinarians and primate experts generally agree that monkeys — like all wild animals — shouldn’t be adopted as pets.
“They are not animated toys. They’re so intelligent they’re difficult to keep in a stimulated environment long term,” said Dr. Patricia V. Turner, the president of the Association of Primate Veterinarians.
She said monkeys kept in homes often end up obese and suffering from emotional stress that takes the form of self-biting. Monkeys are garrulous social creatures and need to be around their own kind, she said.
With all due respect to the Clarks, I agree with the experts. Monkeys and other wild animals should not be kept as pets. It’s dangerous, it’s bad for the animals, it’s often bad for the local ecology, and it’s just not right. I support efforts to tighten restrictions on who can buy, sell, or possess exotic animals. TM Daily Post has more, and the Trib has a related article about the Humane Society pushing for a ban on “exotic” pets.