The Right Pet For You

Monkey, Animal, Pet, Wildlife

Monkey Business…

I moved there from New York with my parents. You will find many things that took some getting used to and that I wasn’t a fan of the warmth or bugs. Then there were things that helped me endure any negatives. One of the things I really loved about Florida was that it lacked several of the rules and limitations that East Coasters were and are still cursed with today. In the early 1970s you couldn’t walk into a NYC or Long Island pet shop and buy a monkey. But you could do that in Florida.

Before the government decided that they would make all the decisions for us, there was a time you could pick many things on your own. That included what type of pet you may want to purchase or adopt. Regrettably, there were some men and women who spoiled that for honest, sincere and thoughtful pet owners… People who left their dogs tied to a tree, maintained an alligator in the pool, had a tiger in their flat or used their home as an animal rescue center keeping hundreds of poorly fed cats in an entirely unacceptable environment… Now I’m not saying that there should not be laws against maintaining certain kinds of wild or exotic animals as pets. What I need to point out is if the government is forbidding people from owning animals because they are compromised or in the opinion of some”expert” could be emotionally damaged by living with people… Then they’re barking up the wrong tree.

As a fourteen year old boy I walked right into a Florida pet shop and saw a squirrel monkey languishing in a small cage. This was not a case of neglect or abuse. This type of thing can be done by pet stores as a hook to get you to buy one of their more pricey or hard to sell selections. So said my dad and he was correct. At $25 it did not cost a fortune and that price meant the shop wanted it gone. It was a time when few tourists were in town which made it more difficult to sell. Most locals were older and didn’t want the hassle of maintaining a Primate as a pet. Besides, the monkey wasn’t very good at self promotion. It had barely been weaned when someone took it out of its mother, gave it some shots and sold it to the pet shop for resale. Because of this the animal was bashful, skiddish and fearful.

I went to the local library and did some research on squirrel monkeys before I finally bought him two weeks after my initial trip to the pet store. The dog died before we moved. The other pets were adopted to neighbors who already knew and liked them because it was just not feasible to bring them along. I named my fighter Sam and brought him home to a huge cage which we kept at a Florida Room with jalousied windows on the side of the house. It faced an unused lot which was overgrown and looked like a jungle. That room could be cut off from A/C if necessary, but was heated for the brief period of time that our region experienced any cold weather.

Squirrel Monkeys are easy to feed, not very expensive to maintain and not hard to train if you train them to do things they like doing. However, they need a whole lot of companionship and mental stimulation. He tried to bite me first so I pinched him several times until he learned not to be so aggressive. This was only possible because I got him young. The idea was to use conditioning and repetitive discipline as tools to have the animal behave. I was the head of the primate group, not him. I was the supplier of food, water and shelter. Once he figured out this he discovered quicker. In the beginning I used a leash. After a couple of months it wasn’t required. He was permitted to roam freely under our supervision and even played outside while we’d barbeques or proceeded in our pool. He used the empty lot next store as an exercise yard climbing the trees and chasing birds and squirrels.

You can’t really have either without stressing out one or both pets. In reality Monkeys are jealous. I strongly suggest that if you plan on owning a monkey of this kind you avoid having other pets. Most Monkeys that are not well trained or treated will likely get mean or moody as they transition into adulthood. Constantly caged monkeys will pee on you or throw feces at you. They may also attack you or ruin things they see are important to you if given the chance.

As a rule Monkeys are smart. They learn fast and are great escape artists. That is the reason why training is important. I always left Sam’s cage door open when he was trained. I did close the doors to this room. After some time he learned how to open and shut all the doors that lead to the backyard so he can go outside to play or do his business. But he’d never go unless one of us gave him our consent. Doors to his room were padlocked when we went out without him.

Owning a squirrel monkey is easy and challenging… satisfying and frustrating… annoying and fun… but it is ethical? Is it detrimental to the animal? You’ll have to decide for yourself unless your city or state has already done that for you. The fact remains that people are going to own monkeys regardless. In China it is illegal, but thousands of Chinese own”Pocket Monkees” that are usually purchased as baby Pygmy Mamosets, Capuchins or Resus Monkeys. They do not treat them well. They tie their arms so that they will learn how to practice walking on twos instead of all fours which is painful and unnatural for them. They shave off their fur and dress them in clothes. You understand. These animals are status symbols in China where many authorities look the other way and ignore the rich and important people who own them. However, if they or responsible pet owners didn’t purchase the monkeys they’d be sold to research labs and condemned to a life spent being subjected to physically or emotionally harmful experiments while living in a tiny cage devoid of love or companionship.

Annually tens of thousands of monkeys have been shipped to research facilities worldwide and many orders for more from the same torture centers remain unfilled. Given that fact it is tough to be worried about the morality of owning a monkey for a pet compared to the same animal ending up as a lab rat. Most people I know who’ve owned a fighter didn’t mistreat it, or shave it, or beat or keep it in an improper environment. Once again, if you have the lawful right to own one, you need to decide if it’s something you should do or not. Before you do anything, do lots of research and buy from a respectable breeder if you decide a fighter is the right pet for you. No more $25 prices. You will spend $3000-$6000 depending on the type of monkey you choose. Most people prefer the Capuchins for their ability to learn tricks and behaviours. If tiny is your plan Pygmy Marmosets are finger sized as infants and hand sized as adults. Squirrel and Spider Monkeys need more time and effort than most people care to invest in a pet.

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