REXANO, www.REXANO.org  Editorial By “Eileen”

On July 1, 2008 ABC Primetime aired a show titled “The Outsiders” speaking of peoples’ pet primates as “surrogate children.” This program has portrayed primate ownership in the worst possible light and FAILED to report the entire story. It is the most biased article I have yet to see and shows an incredible lack of journalism on the part of ABC. It is obvious that is was animal rights driven.  

I was actually interviewed by Denise Balona, The Orlando Sentinel reporter, who wrote the original story on Lori Johnson and her pet Capuchin, Jessica-Marie.
We spoke for about a half hour and she also spoke for more than an hour with my mother-in-law. She requested I send her pictures as well, and I sent her many. NOTHING we told her was printed her article. NONE of the large enclosures, or pictures of us with our ADULT primates, mouths full of those beautiful canines, made it to print. When I later emailed her asking her why nothing we had said was printed her reply was “I had included some of what you said but removed it due to space.” How very convenient.

The media loves to portray all primate owners as irresponsible lunatics who keep them as “surrogate children.” This is FALSE. The majority of primates ARE NOT surrogates, they are MONKEYS and are cared for as such. We do love them as part of my family the same way that other American families love their dog or cat. I have met with many other owners who also care wonderfully for their primate companions as PETS. I have even been commended by my veterinarian for my ability to properly handle and care for them. This show is the equal of airing a program on owners who use their dogs in dog fighting and then state that all owners fight their dogs. Amputating fingers…That is cruel and no owner would condone that. That was one isolated case of a primate with amputated fingers. It probably occured from him fighting with another monkey, not an actual amputation.

About Angelle Sampey and her monkey, Andy… If she would have done the proper research BEFORE acquiring him she would have known that he needed companionship of his own kind, or CONSTANT company from her, which her job would not allow her to provide him because of constant travel requirements.

If she did not have time for a child because of her job, what made her believe she would have had time for such a high maintenance animal? Her story would have had the same ending even if she took in a dog as they too are social animals. Notice at the end that she states she is turning Andy’s old playroom into a room for a child she is adopting from China. If she clearly expressed that she did not have time for a child, and her work requires her to travel so often how can she think this poor child will turn out better? SHE is setting herself up for failure. I hope that I am wrong about this as the only one who would truly suffer is the child.
To those people judging monkey and other exotic animal owners, don’t forget that dogs too came from the wild at one point. In fact there are still wild dogs out there…wolves. Judging by the 4.7 million+ dog bites ANNUALLY in the US alone, dogs aren’t very domesticated either. In the end it is how the animals were cared for. I have seen many very well cared for primates, and many well cared for domestics.

Arguments can be made in favor or against any and all animal breeds. Yes, some choose to live their lives with an alternative pet. That does not make us any more crazy, evil, or selfish than the neighbor with a cat, or fish. Monkeys are animals just the same as dogs are, both having different needs than the other. What needs to be looked at is not the type of animal one owns, but the type of care that animal receives. There are bad owners for ALL animal species. I have seen the sweetest pit bulls that would not hurt a fly, yet the media makes them to be vicious animals. They are not. It is irresponsible owners who always seem to make the news, and discredit all the other good owners out there.

Should there be permits required to own a primate? Yes, and many states do require permits. Should they be banned? NO!

Fair regulations are a good thing. The State of FL requires 1,000 of experience among other requirements for example, which I find very fair. The problem with regulations is that some will put such strict criteria or wording that pretty much equals a ban. Bans only punish responsible owners. When you remove the right to do something, you are removing that right for EVERYONE, not just the bad. Those that are good will continue to follow the law, and not get a monkey or whatever else. But those who do it illegally will continue to, and it will be worse for the monkeys because now they won’t have access to health care, outdoor enclosures, etc. For those that believe that the wild is a much better place should go visit that wild. The greatest threat to primates and other exotics is not the pet trade but Habitat Encroachment. The “wild” animals have nowhere to go because human overpopulation is leading to the taking of their land. The people in their native habitats who stole that land now kill them because they continue to eat from their crops and are considered a nuisance. People in poverty stricken areas kill them for food…Add to that equation other predators, drought leading to less food and greater competition amongst each other, and diseases they can succumb to in the wild. These animals are being pushed out of their native land with nowhere to go.

The wild doesn’t seem so much greater than captivity in a caring environment. Unless you find extinction a better option? Also to note, import of wild monkeys as pets has been illegal in the US since 1975 and most other developed countries have similar laws regarding all endangered species. Many people will say that they belong in zoos and sanctuaries. Remember animal rights groups don’t want them in cages at all.

This means no zoos or sanctuaries either. If they can’t be in a zoo, sanctuary, private home, or their native land where should they go? For me extinction is not an option.

Regarding Sanctuaries and Zoos: Most employees work for minimum wage, or free. I am sure for many it is a job just to get by. Who wants to work cleaning cages day in day out for a living? My point: Many zoo employees don’t really care much for the animals, they just want their money.

I have spoken to employees at zoos who tell me that they only remain there for the animals, because most other employees don’t care and don’t do anything. Others tell me that they know that their enclosures are less than ideal, but when caretakers suggest in investing money in habitats, they are denied. I am not saying all zoo employees, but many. Private owners took up this responsibility willingly, and get rewarded by the close relationship they develop with their animals; something zoo employees lack as handling of animals is prohibited in most cases.

There are bad and good in all aspects of every day life. Instead of criticizing and attacking owners, zoos, etc, time and energy should be spent on educating those who don’t have the appropriate knowledge so that they too can provide their animals with excellent care. Below is a comment made on the ABC site:

I could not have said it better myself. Why does our society refuse to embrace anyone who is different? At one time the black community was ostracized by society because of their skin color. Members of the gay community have been ostracized because of their sexual practices. Other groups of Americans have been discriminated against because of other practices or cultural differences. Why can’t Americans “live and let live?” Personally, I don’t like snakes. In fact, I am frightened of them and they disgust me. But do I ridicule and condemn responsible owners of snakes for their passion and dedication to the species that interests them and they chose to share their lives with? NO! When pet owners fondly refer to their dog, cat, primate, or other pet as their “son” or “daughter,” as many pet owners of various species do, it is simply a term of endearment which describes the loving and nurturing relationship they have with their pet. I have heard many dog owners refer to their dogs as their “babies,” their “fur-babies,” their “kids” or their “son/daughter.” The practice of referring to beloved pets with otherwise human terminology is not isolated to primate pet owners, but is a common practice among thousands of animal-loving American pet owners. In no way are these individuals deluded or insane, just very fond of the animals in their care and they chose to refer to them with terms of endearment that refer to the intimacy of the parent/child relationship. Some people don’t refer to their pets with this type of terminology, but shouldn’t condemn those who do. Few Americans have the dedication and committment required to care for a primate pet due to the animal’s complex and specialized needs. But that doesn’t mean that the few people who choose to make that type of committment to an animal should be ostracized, punished or condemned for doing so. Let’s respect the dedication of these people to their unusual pets and leave them alone!

Copyright © REXANO 2008 

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