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07 March, 2024

Craig MacKenzie

Measures have been signed into law this week to ban keeping primates as pets.

The legislation brings in a licensing scheme setting strict rules to ensure that only private keepers who meet new welfare and licensing standards can keep primates, delivering on a government manifesto commitment and Action Plan for Animal Welfare pledge to provide greater legal protection for pet primates.

The measures come into force on 6 April 2025, when all primates in England will need to be kept to these zoo-level standards, banning the practice of keeping primates as pets.

Up to 5,000 primates are currently kept in domestic settings as pets in the UK. According to most experts, these wild animals have complex welfare and social needs and cannot be adequately cared for in these environments. The new measures will improve the welfare of thousands of these intelligent animals.

What is the relevant legislation?

The Animal Welfare (Primate Licences) (England) Regulations 2023.

What is the penalty for breaking the rules?

Two potential offences should be considered under The Animal Welfare Act 2006.

(a) Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence for a person who is responsible for an animal to cause the animal unnecessary suffering. This offence carries up to five years imprisonment.

(b) Section 9 requires a person who is responsible for an animal to provide for the animal's welfare needs in line with good practice. This offence carries up to 6 months imprisonment.

In addition, the 2023 Regulations create an offence of not complying with a licence condition, which carries a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine.

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