Does PetSmart Sell Monkeys? A Comprehensive Guide

As an exotic animal enthusiast and expert on the pet retail industry, one of the most common questions I get is: "Does PetSmart sell monkeys?" The short answer is no. PetSmart, the largest pet store chain in the United States, has a strict policy against selling primates and other exotic animals. However, the topic of monkey ownership is a complex one that warrants a more thorough examination. In this comprehensive guide, I will delve into the legality, challenges, costs, and ethics of having a monkey as a pet.

Monkey Ownership Laws by State

First, it‘s important to understand that owning a pet monkey is legally restricted or banned in many parts of the United States. The laws vary widely by state, with some states banning private ownership of all non-human primates, while others allow it with a permit or only for certain species. Here is a breakdown of state laws as of 2023:

States where monkey ownership is illegal for all species:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

States that allow monkey ownership with a permit and/or only for some species:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Even in states where monkey ownership is technically legal, many cities and counties have their own bans or restrictions. It is crucial to thoroughly research all relevant laws in your area before considering a pet monkey.

The Challenges of Monkey Ownership

While monkeys may seem like cute and entertaining pets, the reality of owning one is far more difficult than most people realize. Monkeys are wild animals with complex physical, psychological, and social needs that are challenging to meet in captivity. Here are some of the key issues:

  • Space requirements: Monkeys need a spacious, secure enclosure with plenty of vertical space for climbing and jumping. The minimum size for a pair of marmosets is around 50 square feet, while larger monkeys like capuchins need 250+ square feet. The enclosure must have a variety of enrichment items like ropes, branches, and puzzle feeders to keep the monkey stimulated.

  • Diet: Monkeys require a varied diet that mimics what they would eat in the wild, including fresh fruits, vegetables, insects, and specially formulated monkey biscuits. An imbalanced diet can lead to serious health problems. Many monkey species also require dietary supplements like vitamin C and calcium.

  • Social needs: Monkeys are highly social animals that live in troops in the wild. Keeping a solitary monkey is cruel and can result in abnormal behaviors like self-mutilation. Most experts recommend keeping monkeys in pairs or small groups, which multiplies the space and care requirements.

  • Lifespan: Depending on the species, monkeys can live 15-40 years in captivity, making them a long-term commitment. As they age, they may develop health issues that require specialized veterinary care.

  • Behavioral challenges: Monkeys are intelligent, curious, and energetic animals that can become destructive and aggressive if their needs are not met. Even well-raised pet monkeys may bite, scratch, and destroy property, especially as they reach sexual maturity. Some species, like macaques and capuchins, can be dangerous to humans.

  • Zoonotic diseases: Monkeys can carry diseases that are transmissible to humans, including herpes B, tuberculosis, and parasites. These illnesses can be devastating or even fatal to humans.

The Cost of Owning a Monkey

In addition to the legal and practical challenges, owning a monkey is extremely expensive. Here is a breakdown of some typical costs:

Expense Cost
Monkey purchase price $3,000-$10,000+
Enclosure construction $5,000-$20,000+
Annual food and supplies $1,000-$3,000+
Annual veterinary care $1,000-$3,000+
Permit and licensing fees $100-$1,000+
Property damage repairs $500-$5,000+ per year

The initial purchase price of a monkey ranges from around $3,000 for a marmoset to over $10,000 for a capuchin. However, this is just the beginning. Building a proper monkey enclosure can easily cost $10,000 or more. The ongoing costs of food, veterinary care, and replacing damaged property add up quickly. Over the lifespan of a monkey, an owner can expect to spend well over $100,000.

The Ethics of the Monkey Pet Trade

Beyond the practical aspects, there are serious ethical concerns around the pet monkey trade. The majority of monkeys sold as pets are taken from the wild as infants, which is devastating to wild populations and extremely traumatic for the individual monkey. Even monkeys bred in captivity are typically removed from their mothers at a very young age, which can lead to behavioral problems and poor health.

Primatologists and animal welfare advocates argue that monkeys simply cannot thrive as pets in a human household. Their intelligence and social needs are too complex, and it is impossible for even a well-meaning owner to fully provide for their well-being. Many pet monkeys end up neglected, abandoned, or surrendered to rescue organizations when they become too difficult to handle.

There are also conservation implications to consider. Many species commonly kept as pets, such as marmosets, tamarins, and squirrel monkeys, are threatened or endangered in the wild. The pet trade is a major contributing factor to their decline. By creating a demand for exotic pets, humans are fueling the destructive poaching and smuggling of primates from their native habitats.

Alternatives to Pet Monkeys

For individuals who are fascinated by monkeys and want to observe or interact with them, there are much better options than trying to keep one as a pet. Visiting monkeys at a respected zoo or primate sanctuary is a great way to appreciate these amazing animals while supporting their conservation and care.

Many zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) have naturalistic monkey habitats and offer educational talks by primate experts. Some top-notch facilities to consider include:

  • San Diego Zoo, California
  • Bronx Zoo, New York
  • Zoo Atlanta, Georgia
  • Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington DC
  • Oregon Zoo, Oregon

There are also non-profit primate sanctuaries that rescue and rehabilitate monkeys from the pet trade, research facilities, and the entertainment industry. Some sanctuaries, like the PRC in Florida and the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Arizona, allow visitors to observe the monkeys from a distance and learn about their natural behaviors and conservation.

For those who want a more hands-on experience, volunteering at a sanctuary can be incredibly rewarding. Most sanctuaries have opportunities for volunteers to help with tasks like preparing food, cleaning enclosures, and creating enrichment items. It‘s a way to directly contribute to improving the lives of rescued monkeys.

Finally, for individuals who are looking for an intelligent, entertaining pet that is well-suited to human companionship, there are many domestic species that make wonderful alternatives to monkeys. PetSmart and other pet retailers offer a variety of engaging animals such as:

  • Dogs, especially working breeds like poodles and border collies
  • Cats, including active breeds like Bengals and Abyssinians
  • Rats, which are very social and trainable
  • Parrots, like African greys and cockatoos, which can learn dozens of words and phrases
  • Ferrets, which are playful and curious
  • Pigs, which are highly intelligent and affectionate

While monkeys may seem like an exciting pet idea, the reality is that they are wholly unsuited to life in a human home. PetSmart‘s policy against selling monkeys is responsible and protects both the welfare of the animals and the safety of customers. By appreciating monkeys in more appropriate settings like zoos and sanctuaries, and choosing pets that thrive in domestic life, animal lovers can find fulfilling ways to interact with and learn from our primate cousins.