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Where is it legal to own a monkey?

illegal to own a monkey

Owning a monkey and the legality behind it differs from state to state, country to country, and contains different stipulations for each different locale. We’ve taken the time here at lawyerblogger to go over the most relevant laws around the world for our readers to digest. So lets find out if it is even legal to own a monkey in 2022!


What countries allow you to have a pet monkey?


The legalities of owning are all over the place. You might be wondering where to get a monkey as a pet without getting in trouble. While we do not endorse the idea, here is a list of a few countries that legally allow you to own a monkey. If there are any stipulations, which is usually the case, we will note it under the country.


United States Of America

When we searched for what states can you own a monkey, we found statistics that noted in the early 2000s there were currently over 15,000 pet monkeys living in the US. There are varying laws that determine the legality of owning a monkey. More than half the country’s states have laws banning ownership of exotic animals, specifically primates. While there are a few states who allow you to own a pet monkey, most of those require a permit to own. There are a few exceptions, including Nevada, where you do not require a permit to own a pet monkey, but it may only cover a certain subspecies. If you’re in the US and unsure of your states legality, you can check out this summary of each state’s laws when it comes to owning exotic animals. It’s best to know exactly what states you can own a monkey in before even considering having a pet monkey (which we do not recommend). 


Almost every province in Canada bans ownership of exotic pets, which primates usually fall under. This does vary from province to province. For example, Alberta and PEI ban all dangerous animals (which includes primates) while in BC you would need a special permit to own and the availability of those permits are low. Ontario is the only province that lacks any form of provincial legislation in regards to exotic animal ownership. The 2003 Ontario Municipal Act gave municipalities the power to pass exotic animal by-laws, which are not standardized, varying between municipalities. This means it might be legal in one municipality but not in the one one right next to it. It also means it would be illegal to be transporting over municipalities where there are bylaws in place. For more information, please speak to your local municipality office and find out the bylaws in the area. 


United Kingdom

As of 2022, owning a monkey is still legal in the U.K, as long as you have a license to own a ‘wild animal’. This could all change though as recent legislation to ban people from keeping monkeys as pets in England is being debated. It’s worth noting there are an estimated  5,000 monkeys kept as pets in England. This legislation would require anyone without a zoo licence to obtain a new specialist private primate keeper licence to ensure they are meeting the required high welfare standards. The legislation would also introduce new welfare restrictions placed on the breeding and transfer of primates. A fine would be given to anyone disobeying the buying, selling and trading of any primates, although an exact price wasn’t given. If you are in the U.K and were thinking about the possibility of having a pet monkey, it might be best to keep an eye on this developing update.



The illegal trade of exotic pets is an extremely big problem in China, where there are no nationwide laws pertaining to animal rights. While there are some state regulations that came into play in 2017 regarding keeping wild animals as pets, you can still manage to get a monkey as a pet. There exists a permit system, under which anyone can breed protected wildlife, provided they have obtained the approval of the department of wildlife protection under the provincial, regional or municipal government. To note, these permits are not easy to get (outside of labs, scientific institutions etc.) but it is possible. The vast underground trading of animals still dominates the majority of exotic pet owners and serves as an illegal way around the permit system.



Mexico, which is also home to some species of monkeys native to the Central American region, has very laxed laws surrounding exotic pets (in this case monkeys). Anyone can keep exotic animals under Mexican law — but they must come from breeders accredited by the Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). The trade of legally obtained exotic animals has been condemned by many animal activists as inhumane because of the sizes of these animals being kept in tiny homes. It has also been reported many narcos in the region are among those profiteering from these industries and many of them lack any regulation (grey market run) that protects the animals.


When it comes to owning a monkey in Brazil, the line is a bit blurred. Yes it is legal to own a monkey, but it cannot be a native wild monkey found in the rainforests of Brazil, such as a marmoset. The law bars any native animal from being kept in captivity as a pet. So while you can have one as a pet, and other exotic animals such as frogs,turtles etc. they have to be bred in captivity and not be a native animal. There is a special license that must be obtained to bring in exotic animals from other countries.


Where is it illegal to own a monkey?
Is it legal to have a pet monkey


Australia is home to many exotic animals, but has strict restrictions surrounding the import of animals. Monkey’s are not permitted to be owned as a household pet and carry severe fines. The penalty for illegal possession under national environment law is imprisonment for five years and/or a fine of up to $210,000 AUD. Zoo’s can still apply for a special permit, but those permits are very restrictive as a vetting process for anyone looking to skirt the rules.

Certain EU States

While there are some EU states that  allow legal ownership of a pet monkey, there is a long list (Pg.8) of EU states where it is not legal to own a monkey, such as:

  • The Netherlands
  • Bulgaria
  • Italy
  • Portugal
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Estonia
  • Hungary


Legality is blurred for owning a pet monkey

We found a country notorious for bears being kept as pets that has some weird laws surrounding animal rights as of now. We also included the country that has revered monkeys for generations but doesn’t exactly have a clear guideline on keeping them as pets in 2022.  



Russia has recently tried to introduce laws that would restrict a list of animals for being kept in homes but the legislation has several holes that have been raised by animal advocates. First, finding any information on the restricted list of animals has been a challenge. We have not been able to find anything on the internet. Secondly, the legislation does state that anyone who has already been in possession of an exotic animal before January 20th 2020 would still be allowed to keep their pets until their natural deaths. Here is an interesting quote we found from this article about the new legislation. “Overall, they were convinced that the new legislation would not affect their activities. Participants from the Krasnodar subsample, Southern federal district of Russia where corruption levels are high, highlighted that the current level of bribery creates an opportunity for using exotic animals as an income source (e.g. photo props) and it is unlikely to change with the new legislation introduction.” This echoes sentiments from animal advocates that the legislation had failed in many  areas to properly address the law. It would be hard to disagree with that line of thinking after trying to find information on the new law.


*Note* If there are any Russian readers out there who might find more information, please let us know!



Monkeys are revered in Hinduism and devout Hindus often feed them. Monkeys, like other wild animals in India, can’t be kept and trained for entertainment purposes in India under Section 22 (ii), PCA Act 1960. The act does not mention though if it is illegal to keep them as pets. We do know that you cannot own any animals that are native to India, which some monkeys are, but does that also exclude monkeys from other countries? We will keep looking for more info for our readers.


Should I have a monkey as a pet?
Pet monkey

No. Even if it is legal in your area to own a pet monkey, you should really look into the research and evidence behind owning a pet monkey. To summarize the article linked, having a pet monkey is not like owning a pet cat or dog. From potential diseases being spread, to the fact monkeys need large and open spaces to thrive, having one as a pet contained in a human household is most likely going to be detrimental to their health. For more information, please read this National Geographic Article on the danger of owning a monkey.

While we are showing you the legalities behind owning a pet monkey, we suggest you NEVER try to keep one as a pet.

For more articles like this, check out our animal law page.

One Response

  1. On Facebook, I see videos where people raise monkeys as pets. they put them in diapers and dress them in clothes. And they feed them as if they were real people human babies.
    So are these countries? The people look like they are from Chain or Phiapiens.

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