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Keeping pet monkeys in homes set to be curtailed in England

Keeping pet monkeys in homes set to be curtailed in England

As of yesterday (31 January), keeping a pet monkey at home will soon become illegal in England unless you meet specific standards.

New rules will be introduced in 2026 including stricter licensing on who can keep primates. The RSPCA has been campaigning for a ban on the keeping and sale of primates as pets and is calling for clearer guidance on the fate of current pet monkeys. 

Under new plans, it will be illegal for a primate to be housed in a domestic setting in England. Only if owners meet certain licensing conditions, enforced by the local authority can exemptions be made. The UK Government has stated that the standards will be equivalent to those required in zoos. Once enacted, the keeping of monkeys and other pet primates will only be allowed under license from 30 April 2026.

The Animal Welfare (Primate Licences) (England) Regulations 2023 were discussed and passed by a committee of Members of Parliament. It will now go to the House of Lords.

The RSPCA estimates 5,000 pet monkeys could be kept in the UK - despite it being "practically impossible" to meet their complex needs in a domestic setting.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: "Meeting the needs of monkeys and other primates is practically impossible to do in a household, domestic environment.

"Stopping the keeping of these primates as pets was a manifesto commitment from the Conservative Party - and it's so important the UK Government keeps this pledge.

"That's why this legislation will be a really important moment for animal welfare - ensuring primates can only be kept in an appropriate environment, as we all strive to create a better world for every animal.

"Too often, our dedicated officers are called to properties where monkeys live in the wrong surroundings, eat inappropriate diets, and are at risk of suffering behind closed doors. This new law has the potential to change that."

Marmoset monkeys, which are the most common type seen as pets, have an average lifespan of between 10 and 12 years - but can live for 20 years or more.

Dr Ros Clubb, RSPCA head of wildlife, added: "While this new law is an important step forward, we need a clear plan from the UK Government about the thousands of pet monkeys living in England.

"With no ‘grandfather rights' in the law, we need Ministers to set out how the welfare needs of these monkeys will be met once the new law comes into force."

Plans to end the keeping of primates as pets were previously included in the UK Government's flagship Kept Animals Bill - but that was binned last year.

In Wales, the Welsh Government is currently consulting on the future licensing of private primate ownership - which the RSPCA is responding to.

More information on the RSPCA's campaigning work can be found online.