As a young teen living on the West Coast of Florida, I was like a fish out of water. I moved there from New York with my parents. Many things took some getting used to, and I was not a fan of the heat or bugs. Whoever invented air conditioning has my eternal gratitude! Then some things helped me tolerate any negatives-the casual lifestyle and dress, the beaches, and the fishing, to name a few. One of the things I loved about Florida was that it lacked many of the rules and restrictions that East Coasters were and still are cursed with today. For example, even in the early 1970s, you could not walk into an NYC or Long Island pet shop and purchase a monkey. However, 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 decide many things for yourself. That included what type of pet you might want to purchase or adopt. Sadly, some people spoiled that for honest, sincere, and thoughtful pet owners… People who left their dogs perpetually tied to a tree, kept an alligator in the pool, had a tiger in their apartment, or used their home as an animal rescue center keeping hundreds of poorly fed cats in an unacceptable environment… Now I am not saying that there should not be laws against keeping certain wild or exotic animals as pets. What I want to point out is if the government is forbidding people from owning animals because they are endangered or, in the opinion of some “expert” might be psychologically damaged by living with people… Then they are barking up the wrong tree.
I walked into a Florida pet shop and saw a squirrel monkey languishing in a small cage as a fourteen-year-old boy. This was not a case of neglect or abuse. Pet stores often use this type of thing 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. Another week went by, and the monkey was still there when I returned. At $25, it did not cost a fortune, and that price meant the store wanted it gone. It was a time when few tourists were in town, which made it harder to sell. Most locals were older and did not want the hassle of keeping a Primate as a pet. Besides, the monkey was not good at self-promotion. It had barely been weaned when someone took it from its mother, gave it some shots, and sold it to the pet store for resale. As a result, the animal was shy, skittish, and frightened.
I went to the local library and researched squirrel monkeys before I finally purchased him two weeks after my first visit to the pet shop. My parents were good with my purchase because I had always been a responsible pet owner, having had a dog, birds, and guinea pigs. Unfortunately, the dog died before we moved. The other pets were adopted by neighbors who already knew and liked them because it was impossible to bring them along. I named my monkey Sam and brought him home to a large cage that we kept in a Florida Room with jalousied windows on the side of our house. It faced a new lot that was overgrown and looked like a jungle. That room could be cut off from A/C if necessary but was heated for the short period that our area experienced any chilly weather.
Squirrel Monkeys are easy to feed, not very expensive to keep, and not hard to train if you train them to do things they enjoy doing. However, they require a lot of companionships and mental stimulation. Fortunately, Sam liked me. He tried to bite me at first, so I pinched him a few times until he learned not to be so aggressive. This was only possible because I got him so young. I also put him in his cage when he misbehaved. The idea was to use conditioning and repetitive discipline to have the animal behave. I was the head of this primate group, not him. I was the provider of food, water, and shelter. Once he figured all this out, he learned faster. In the beginning, I used a leash. After a few months, it wasn’t necessary. He was allowed to roam freely under our supervision and even played outside while we had barbeques or went in our pool. He used the empty lot next store as an exercise yard climbing the trees and chasing birds and squirrels. He also used it as a potty, so I guess you could say he was potty trained for the most part.
Dogs and monkeys have sworn enemies. You can’t have both without stressing out one or both pets. In reality, Monkeys are jealous. I strongly suggest that you avoid having other pets if you plan on owning a monkey of this type. Most Monkeys that are not well trained or kindly treated will likely get mean or moody as they transition to adulthood. Constantly caged monkeys will pee on you or throw feces at you. They may also attack you or destroy things they see are vital to you if given the opportunity.
As a rule, Monkeys are clever. They learn fast and are great escape artists. That is why training is essential. I always left Sam’s cage door open once he was trained. However, I did close the doors to that room. He learned to close or open his cage door as it suited him. After a while, he learned how to open and close all the doors that lead to the backyard so he could go outside to play or do his business. But he would never go unless one of us gave him our permission. Doors to his room were padlocked when we went out without him.
Owning a squirrel monkey is easy and hard… satisfying and frustrating… fun and annoying… but it is ethical? Is it detrimental to the animal? You will have to decide for yourself unless your city or state has already done that for you. The truth is that people are going to own monkeys regardless. In China, it’s illegal, but thousands of Chinese own “Pocket Monkees,” which are usually purchased as baby Pygmy Marmosets, Capuchins, or Resus Monkeys. They do not treat them well. They tie their arms to learn 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 get the picture. These animals are status symbols in China, where most authorities look the other way and ignore the wealthy and influential people who own them. However, if responsible pet owners did not buy the monkeys, they would be sold to research labs and condemned to a life spent being subjected to physically or emotionally dangerous experiments while living in a tiny cage devoid of love or companionship.
Each year tens of thousands of monkeys are shipped to research facilities worldwide, and many orders for more from these same torture centers remain unfilled. Given that fact, it is hard to be concerned about the morality of owning a monkey as a pet compared to the same animal ending up as a lab rat. Most people I know who have owned a monkey did not mistreat it, shave it, or beat or keep it in an improper environment. Once again, if you have the legal right to own one, you have to decide if it is something you should do or not. Before you do anything, do lots of research and buy from a reputable breeder if you decide a monkey is a suitable 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 behaviors. If tiny is your plan, Pygmy Marmosets are finger-sized as babies and hand-sized as adults. Squirrel and Spider Monkeys require more time and effort than most people care to invest in a pet.
Bill Knell is a famous Speaker, Author, Writer, and Researcher. Although his work covers many diverse topics, he is best known as a Paranormal Researcher with over forty years of experience investigating UFOs and other Paranormal Mysteries. Bill has authored hundreds of articles, written several books, and presented over 2000 seminars on Paranormal Phenomenon in the USA and Canada since the 1970s. He has appeared on popular TV shows like Hard Copy, A Current Affair, 20/20 and been a guest on CNN, Headline News, Fox News, CBC News, BBC News, PBS, and other significant Networks. In addition, bill hosted a popular cable TV show in the NYC area sponsored by Time/Life that regularly beat the network news broadcasts in ratings and was nominated for an Emmy. Considered a UFO Expert by the media, Bill was a consultant to several films and TV productions, including Independence Day, Men In Black, War Of The World’s, The Fifth Element, Fire In the Sky, and The X Files.
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