MONKEY World has sounded the alarm after being swamped by ever-more calls to re-house animals being kept in misery as pets.
The primate rescue centre is calling for new welfare legislation after finding itself unable to help a “long waiting list” of animals being inadequately kept in UK homes – despite constructing several new facilities to do just that.
Monkey World director Dr Alison Cronin has warned: “It is as easy to buy a pet monkey in Britain as it is to purchase a goldfish.”
Over the past two years alone the Purbeck-based centre has rescued 26 monkeys of six different species from homes and pet shops – that is a third of the total number of monkeys it has taken in since opening in 1989.
It is now calling for new laws to improve the standard of care of primates kept in pet shops, with breeders, or in private homes in the UK, backed by an 110,000-signature petition.
Dr Cronin added: “Some of the worst conditions from which we have rescued monkeys are from people’s homes.
“It is hard to believe, but small monkeys can be purchased from British pet shops with no background checks or licences.
“Sadly most of these primates are kept by well meaning but unqualified people who do not know what the needs of their monkeys are.
Monkeys from the British pet trade come to us in terrible physical and mental condition having been kept in tiny, indoor birdcages, in solitary confinement.”
The centre is receiving ever more calls from worried owners seeking to re-home pets they cannot care for, added Alison.
“Well-meaning individuals are being misled by breeders and dealers as to the needs and longevity of captive monkeys.
“People are paying thousands of pounds for animals that require specialist care and that will never make good pets.
“The British public are being ripped off by this needless but legal trade.”
Monkey World is campaigning to extend the same standard of care required for zoo-kept animals to those in the pet trade.
Dr Cronin made a presentation to members of the House of Lords in November last year and provided evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which is set to report to the government on its finding this week.