Opinion Former Article

RSPCA: Cruel pet trade condemned after man admits neglecting marmosets

Primates as pets should be banned, says RSPCA

The RSPCA is renewing its plea for a ban on primates as pets after a man admitted to neglecting two pet marmosets which he kept in dark and filthy conditions and put in his pocket as he drove around town.

Peter Powell, 53, of Teats Hill Flats, Plymouth today (Tuesday 24 July 2012) pleaded guilty at Plymouth Magistrates Court to failing to provide for the needs of Tya, a six month old female marmoset and Rattler, a two-year-old male. Sentencing will be heard at the end of August.

It is the RSPCA’s third major case involving neglect or cruelty to a marmoset since January and highlights the problems involved with the growing UK trade in keeping primates as pets.

An RSPCA inspector and primate experts from Monkey World - Ape Rescue Centre in Dorset visited the marmosets in October after reports that Powell had been seen carrying the small monkeys in his pocket as he drove his mobility scooter around town.

They found the animals living in appalling conditions. A razor blade, cigarette butts and faeces was scattered across the floor and there was no evidence of the specialised food or perching room necessary for their care.

Tya and Rattler were removed and taken to Monkey World where it was found they were suffering from the early stages of rickets, or metabolic bone disease. After being given specialist care and lessons in how to feed, talk and socialise from fellow marmoset Gabi, they are now growing and doing well.

RSPCA Inspector Becky Wadey said: “It was heartbreaking to see these poor little marmosets like this – their fur was sticky with faeces and urine and they were clearly underweight and in a bad state of health.

“Tya, the little one, was just crouched inside a dirty tube set up beneath the curtain rail while Rattler was balanced precariously on top of it. There was so little room for both of them that at one point Rattler knocked Tya off the perch – she had quite a fall to the hard floor.

“It is hard to understand how anyone could think this was an acceptable way to keep an animal.”

The RSPCA is becoming increasingly concerned about cases involving primates as pets. Between 2001-2010 there were 472 calls about pet primates to the charity’s cruelty line, and nearly half these calls concerned marmosets.

This conviction is the third this year concerning a pet marmoset. In January Lee Powell and Julie Ann Jones from Stourbridge were found guilty of causing suffering to Mikey the marmoset. Mikey had seven fractures in his legs due to rickets, the result of lack of vitamins in his diet. This meant he could only shuffle himself along the floor and sadly, he had to be put to sleep.

In February Patricia Wilson and Duncan Johnson, from Gateshead, pleaded guilty of not providing adequate care to their marmoset, Marley, which they kept in a parrot cage on his own and gave him rides on the family dog’s back. The couple claimed to love their pet, but be unaware of his needs.

Dr Lisa Riley, primatologist for the RSPCA, said: “Marmosets are seen as small and easy to keep but this is far from the truth – they are very hard to look after and totally unsuitable as pets.

“They often self-harm or get aggressive when kept alone rather than in the family groups they are meant to be in, and many develop crippling cases of Metabolic bone disease due to a lack of vitamin D they would normally get from the Brazilian sun. Perhaps worst of all tiny baby marmosets are often torn away from their parents well before they are ready, causing, in some cases, a lifetime of suffering.

“We must stop this growing trade. Breeders and dealers charge large sums of money, and it has becomet far too easy to pick up a marmoset over the internet, especially since you don’t need a licence to have one.”

Dr Alison Cronin MBE, director of Monkey World, said: “We are an International primate rescue and rehabilitation centre, but more and more we find ourselves being called to rescue and rehabilitate monkeys being kept as pets legally in Britain today.

“In the case of Rattler and Tya, the owner was incapable of giving two such tiny, young marmosets the specialist care that they needed and deserved. We are very pleased that he has pleaded guilty to the charges of neglect, but remain concerned and saddened that the law allows this trade to continue in Britain today.”

Notes to editors

— Images, interviews and filming opportunities with Tya and Rattler available on request. Copyright notice for all images: please note that Monkey World retains the copyright to all images of the park and primates. Please do not use or distribute the attached for any other purpose than in relation to the attached press release without our express written consent. Do not archive. Credit copyright to Monkey World.

— Interviews available on request with RSPCA inspectors and primatologists. Further information and interviews available about Rattler and Tya’s current welfare from Monkey World – Ape Rescue.

— Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre and the RSPCA Wildlife Department are embarking on a joint venture to build a new marmoset complex at the Monkey World park in Dorset. This complex will be capable of housing many ex-pet marmosets including six individuals rescued during the three RSPCA prosecutions mentioned above. A new campaign to raise funds for this project will be launched in the near future.

— Please find information about Monkey world’s campaign against primates as pets here: http://www.monkeyworld.org/primates-as-pets-petition

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS

Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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