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Following last week's chimp attack, House to vote on Captive Primate Safety Act

February 23, 2009 |  1:28 pm

Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon In the wake of the chimpanzee attack that left a woman in critical condition and the chimp dead from a policeman's bullet, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote today on the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 80), which seeks to outlaw the transportation of primates across state lines by individuals.

The bill's original co-sponsor, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), is scheduled to speak on the House floor in support of the bill, which would amend the Lacey Act Amendments to add primates to the original list of animals and plants covered.

"The horrific chimpanzee attack in Connecticut last week is a tragic example of just how reckless and dangerous it is to keep primates as pets," Blumenauer said in a statement. "Primates are wild animals and when kept in the home can be a real-life threat to public safety and public health. They should not be regularly transported around the United States and integrated into communities or our households because of the great risk it poses on our families, our friends, and our neighbors. Make no mistake; this legislation will protect of our families and ensure the humane treatment of these animals."

It's believed that up to 400 chimpanzees are currently being kept as pets in the U.S., although importing the apes from foreign countries for individuals' use as pets has been outlawed since the 1970s.  Although  20  states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to ban primates as pets, no current federal law prohibits it.  The Captive Primate Safety Act would not affect the trade of chimpanzees between zoos or research facilities.

Primatologist Jane Goodall urged support for the bill, saying, "In doing so, you will be promoting public health and safety, as well as taking a reasonable and sound step toward protecting these amazing wild creatures."

Charla Nash, the victim of last week's chimp attack, has been transferred to the Cleveland Clinic, the site of the first facial transplant surgery in the U.S.  "Ms. Nash has suffered severe trauma to her face, scalp and hands," said Daniel Alam, M.D., a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the hospital.  "It will be several days to a week before we can determine the full extent of her injuries. Therefore, it will take some time before her reconstructive needs unfold to determine the next steps of her care."

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Rep. Blumenauer during a mock swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill in January.  Credit: Susan Walsh/Associated Press.

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