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Monday, July 22, 2019

Pet Raccoons and Monkeys

     Squirrel monkeys are small, cute, and, by all appearances, cuddly. In reality tough, they are NOT cuddly. Today squirrel monkeys regularly show up in primate rescue centers. 
     Back in the 1960s and '70s, large numbers of squirrel monkeys were imported into the United States from Peru and Colombia. And why not? In some parts of South America, squirrel monkey pets are not out of the ordinary. 
     These monkeys and even pet raccoons were offered for sale in comic book ads. They were advertised as eating the same food as humans and it was mentioned that they even liked lollipops. The monkeys were crammed into cardboard mailing tubes for shipping. 
     More than one primatologist will tell you that they wouldn’t want one for a pet because they’re very destructive. Besides, you have to keep them entertained and if you don’t, they get really destructive. In addition to that, they’re social animals so it’s recommended you keep more than one. 
     Oh, some thing the ads didn’t mention...monkeys throw their feces, wash themselves in their own urine, often bite and males frequently masturbate. 
     No instructions were included with the monkeys, they just arrived in their shipping container. Most had a waist belt or a collar and came with a leash. There are stories of people who actually bought one and they tell about the monkeys screaming, yelling, running around swinging and climbing on everything as soon as they were let out of the shipping carton. And, when attempts were made to capture the critters they would begin biting as if their lives depended on it. 
     Many if them were captured for sale on the black market; poachers shoot squirrel monkey mothers to get at the babies that cling to their backs. Often the babies die within the first few weeks of captivity because they haven’t been weaned from their mother’s milk. In some populations, females only give birth every two years and babies take three to four years to mature. 
     Fewer people probably wanted pet baby raccoons that grow up to be vicious, wild, rabies carrying critters.
     Raccoons are wild animals and even so-called tamed ones are extremely high maintenance and require an experienced, knowledgeable caretaker. What’s more, even several generations of captive bred raccoons still exhibit all of their wild instincts throughout their lives. Also, it's illegal in certain states in keep raccoons as pets.
     In order to keep a raccoon as a pet in the following states, the owner must obtain a permit or license, or must register the animal with local authorities: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota. 
     My Uncle Floyd was a scofflaw. He illegally kept a raccoon in a cage that he used to “train” his coon dogs. I am not sure how/why a “coon dog” would need training, but I guess they do. I remember feeling sorry for the raccoon being caged up like it was and it must have been terrified when it was time to be used as training material for the dogs. 
     Raccoons simply don’t make good pets. Even though it’s illegal to take any animal from the wild, you can buy baby raccoons from licensed exotic animal breeders, but doing so is not a good idea. 
     Raccoons are very clever and mischievous and they can quickly destroy a home and its furnishings. Adult raccoons in particular can also be unpredictable around both humans and pets. 
     Most veterinarians are not trained in raccoon care and they (the racoons, not the vets) harbor many diseases that can pose health risks. Even if you do find one that can treat the animal you must show proof of purchase, or there's no way to prove you did not illegally take the animal from the wild. If you own a raccoon that was taken from the wild, you are at risk of having the animal confiscated and being fined. 
     Raccoons purchased as pets can no longer survive in the wild, so owners must be prepared to take on a 10 to 15 year commitment to an animal that often requires 24/7 supervision. 
     Raccoons aren't easily house trained, so unless you can train one to use a litter box somewhat consistently, they’ll be relieving herself around the house. Raccoons are notorious biters and when angry, frustrated or stressed they will bite any human, or other pet, that’s within biting distance; this makes them a medical and insurance liability. They can also carry parasites and infectious diseases (including rabies) that pose a threat. 
     If you want to take a trip away from home, finding someone to care for the animal will be next to impossible. Left unsupervised they like to dump out house plants, pull buttons off of clothes, throw books out of bookcases and move small items around the house. Did I mention that sometimes they like to pee on stuff they’ve been messing around with? 
     The ads never mentioned any of this.

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