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Detailed Discussion of Connecticut Great Ape Laws



Hanna Coate


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2011
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

Printable Version

 

 

I. INTRODUCTION

Under Section 26-40a of Connecticut’s Fisheries and Game Law, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans are classified as “potentially dangerous animals” which may not be possessed by the general public. All federally licensed or registered exhibitors and research facilities are exempt from the ban; however, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) prohibits the importation of potentially dangerous apes by many exhibitors (except zoos, nature centers, and municipal parks). Also, although all federally licensed exhibitors are exempt from the state’s “potentially dangerous animal” ban, most private exhibitors (including circuses, wild animal parks, sanctuaries, and performing animal acts) are required to have a DEP permit, and any necessary federal permits, to possess those apes.

Gibbons are not classified as “potentially dangerous animals,” so it is legal for the general public to import and possess those animals with a DEP permit. Certain exhibitors and research facilities are exempt from the state’s permit requirements for gibbons. Because those apes are federally protected endangered species, certain activities involving gibbons are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and require a federal permit.

The following discussion begins with a general overview of the various state statutes and regulations affecting Great Apes. It then analyzes the applicability of those laws to the possession and use of apes for specific purposes, including their possession as pets, for scientific research, for commercial purposes, and in sanctuaries.

 

II. STATE STATUTES AND REGULATIONS

Connecticut has a variety of laws governing the importation, possession, and treatment of apes. Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans are regulated differently than gibbons under state laws because the former species are considered “potentially dangerous animals,” while gibbons are not. In general CT ST § 26-40a bans the possession of potentially dangerous apes by the general public, but exempts certain federally regulated facilities. Although gibbons are not considered potentially dangerous animals, they are regulated under CT ST § 26-54, CT ST § 26-55, and DEP’s Wildlife regulations, which collectively require a DEP permit for the importation or possession of gibbons (certain exemptions apply). Although there are no state laws setting minimum standards of care for apes, those animals are protected by Connecticut’s general anti-cruelty laws which prohibit the abuse, neglect, cruel transport, and certain commercial activities involving animals.

 

A. POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ANIMAL RESTRICTIONS

1. Possession: Under CT ST § 26-40a, all primates in the family hominidae (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) are classified as “potentially dangerous animals.”[1] Gibbons are not. It is illegal for the general public to possess any potentially dangerous apes,[2] but the ban does not apply to the following entities:

  1. Municipal parks;
  2. Zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) or the Zoological Association of America (ZAA);
  3. Exhibitors that are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); and
  4. Research facilities that are registered with the USDA.

Any person who possesses a gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo, or orangutan in violation of this ban is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.[3] In addition to any criminal and civil[4] penalties assessed,[5] the Department of Environmental Protection may seize any illegally possessed ape and charge the owner or possessor for all costs associated with the seizure, care, maintenance, relocation, or disposal of the ape.[6]

2. Sale: The Connecticut Department of Agriculture (CDA) is responsible for regulating pet shops within the state. CDA’s pet shop regulations outlaw the exhibition or sale of “potentially dangerous animals” (including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) by pet shops.[7] No similar restriction exists for the sale of gibbons because they are not considered “potentially dangerous animals” under CT ST § 26-40a.[8]

3. Importation: Under DEP’s Wildlife regulations, it is illegal to import all species of “potentially dangerous” apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans). The import ban does not apply to:

(a) Municipal parks;

(b) Zoos;

(c) Nature centers;

(d) Museums; and

(e) Research facilities.[9]

 

B. PERMITS FOR IMPORTING AND POSSESSING QUADRUPEDS AND WILD ANIMALS

Section 26-1 of Connecticut’s Fisheries and Game Law defines a “quadruped” as any four-legged animal which is ferae naturae or wild by nature, including an animal that may be enclosed and considered a pet or semidomesticated.[10] Under CT ST § 26-54, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) may issue annual permits authorizing the possession of “legally acquired” quadrupeds as pets.[11] Also, CT ST § 26-55 makes it illegal to import or possess any “wild mammal” without a DEP permit. The following entities are exempt from CT ST § 26-55’s permit requirements:

  1. Municipal parks;
  2. Zoos;
  3. Research facilities maintained by scientific or educational institutions;
  4. Museums; and
  5. Nature centers where live wild mammals are held in strict confinement.[12]

Also, under DEP’s Wildlife regulations, any quadruped possessed under CT ST § 26-54 or CT ST § 26-55 must be cared for and held in pens conforming to specifications established by the agency.[13]

While the possession of gibbons as pets is clearly not outlawed under CT ST § 26-40a (banning the keeping of “potentially dangerous” animals as pets), a DEP permit is required to keep those animals as pets. These permit requirements also apply to the importation and possession of potentially dangerous apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans) by facilities that are exempt from CT ST § 26-40a’s ban (unless they are listed above as also exempt from the permit requirements).

Any person who imports or possesses a wild mammal in violation of CT ST § 26-55 is guilty of a class C misdemeanor.[14] In addition to any criminal and civil[15] penalties assessed,[16] the Department of Environmental Protection may seize any illegally possessed “wild mammal” and charge the owner or possessor for all costs associated with the seizure, care, maintenance, relocation, or disposal of the animal.[17]

 

C. THREATENED AND ENDANGERED SPECIES REGULATIONS

Section 26-55-2 of the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) regulations prohibits the importation or possession of any “threatened” or “endangered” wild quadruped without a DEP permit. For purposes of that regulation, CT ST § 26-304 defines “threatened” and “endangered” species to include any federally-listed “threatened” or “endangered” species under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).[18]  All species of apes are listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA, so it is illegal to import or possess all species of apes without a DEP permit.[19] The following facilities are exempt from DEP’s “endangered” and “threatened” species permit requirements:

  1. Zoos;
  2. Municipal parks;
  3. Research laboratories;
  4. Colleges or universities;
  5. Public nonprofit nature centers; and
  6. Museums where quadrupeds are held in strict confinement.

There are no rules governing the sale or breeding of “endangered” and “threatened” species.

 

D. STATE GENERAL ANTI-CRUELTY LAWS

The state’s anti-cruelty statutes,[20] which essentially outlaw animal abuse or neglect, generally apply to Great Apes in Connecticut. Because all apes within the state live in mandatory confinement, the portions of the law which prohibit the confinement of those animals without proper care, food, water, wholesome air, and protection from the elements are particularly relevant.[21] Also, under CT ST § 53-247(a), any person who fails to cage or restrain an ape (or any other animal) in a manner that prevents the animal from injuring itself or another animal is guilty of animal cruelty.

Connecticut’s anti-cruelty laws also make it a crime to harass or worry any animal to make him or her perform for amusement, diversion or exhibition.[22] In addition to harassment, apes are sometimes trained or induced to perform for public entertainment by chemical, electrical, mechanical, and manual devices that inflict physical or psychological injuries. Accordingly, the sections that prohibit any person from  overworking, cruelly beating, or unjustifiably injuring an animal may protect apes from being physically abused in the course of training, to induce performances, or for any other reason.[23] Any person who abuses or neglects an ape in violation of CT ST § 53-247(a) may be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for up to a year, or both.

Certain provisions protect apes during the course of transport, whether they are transported in travelling shows, or for sale or other purposes. CT ST § 53-247(a) makes it illegal to transport an animal in a “cruel manner,” while CT ST § 53-252 sets specific requirements for the transportation of animals on railroads. Under the latter section, apes (and other animals) cannot be confined in a railroad car for more than 28 consecutive hours without being unloaded for food, water, and rest for at least five consecutive hours. This requirement does not apply to animals that are transported in cars in which they have proper food, water, space, and an opportunity to rest.[24]

This set of laws also addresses more severe forms of abuse. Under CT ST § 53-247(b), it is illegal to maliciously and intentionally maim, mutilate, torture, wound, or kill an ape or any other animal. This portion of the law does not apply to licensed veterinarians and anyone performing medical research as an employee of, student in or person associated with any hospital, educational institution or laboratory. Anyone who abuses an ape in violation of CT ST § 53-247(b) may be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to 5 years, or both.

In addition to addressing the treatment of animals, the state’s anti-cruelty laws outlaw certain uses of apes and other animals. Under CT ST § 53-250, it is illegal to use an ape (or any other animal) to solicit money or donations. Also, it is illegal to exhibit an ape (or any other animal) in connection with any business or trade on any street, highway, public park, or at a fair, exhibition, or place of amusement, recreation, or entertainment. This law does not apply to the exhibition of apes by educational institutions, zoos, circuses, or theatrical exhibitions. Any person who owns, possesses, or exhibits an ape (or any other animal) for such purposes may be fined up to $100, imprisoned up to 30 days, or both.[25]

State and local law enforcement agents, animal control officers, and the Connecticut Department of Agriculture may enforce the state’s anti-cruelty laws.[26]

 

F. LOCAL LAWS

While the importation and possession of apes are regulated under both federal and state laws, county and municipal governments may also regulate apes within their geographical boundaries.[27] Typically, those local ordinances either restrict the possession of apes, regulate activities involving apes, or set minimum standards for the housing and care of apes. The following examples demonstrate how some towns, cities, and counties in Connecticut have addressed the issue:

Bolton: All species of apes are classified as “potentially dangerous wild animals.” It is illegal to possess any potentially dangerous wild animal without a local permit. The permit requirement does not apply to certain municipal parks, zoos, nature centers, and research facilities.[28] (adopted Oct. 15, 1969)

East Hartford 6-7: It is illegal to keep or maintain any “wild animal” without registering the animal with the Chief of Police and the Director of Health and obtaining a local permit. The Chief of Police may establish certain requirements for the safe caging of a wild animal. Prior to issuing a permit, the Director of Health must determine that the wild animal will not be detrimental to public health or likely to create a nuisance.

New Haven 7-2: It is illegal to possess a “potentially dangerous animal” (including gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) within the city limits. (Ord. No. 1400, 1-3-06)

 

III. POSSESSORS OF GREAT APES

In the U.S., captive apes are generally possessed for use as pets, scientific research subjects, for exhibition or other commercial purposes, or they are retired and live in sanctuaries. The remainder of this section discusses how the state’s laws affect apes that are possessed for those purposes.

 

A. PETS

Under CT ST § 26-40a, it is illegal to import and keep apes that are classified as “potentially dangerous animals” (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) as pets. Gibbons are not included within the list of potentially dangerous animals, so under state law it is legal to import and keep gibbons as pets with a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit.[29] Gibbons are federally protected endangered species (under the Federal Endangered Species Act[30]) and federal restrictions apply to certain activities involving gibbons, including the interstate transfer and transport of those animals.

The following list outlines what pet owners can and can’t do under the law:

Importation: Potentially dangerous apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) may not be imported for use as pets. Gibbons may be imported with a DEP permit, subject to Federal Endangered Species Act[31] restrictions.

Transportation: Not specifically covered.

Possession: Potentially dangerous apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) – banned; gibbons – allowed with a DEP permit.

Breeding: Not covered.

Sale: It is illegal for pet shops to sell gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans.[32]

Living Conditions: Any “quadruped” possessed under CT ST § 26-54 or CT ST § 26-55 must be cared for and held in pens conforming to specifications established by DEP.[33]

 

B. ZOOS

Under CT ST § 26-40a, it is illegal to import and possess all primates in the family hominidae (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans). Zoos that are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) or the Zoological Association of America (ZAA) are exempt from the ban. Currently, there is one AZA-accredited zoo, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut.[34]  Zoos that are not AZA or ZAA accredited, but that are U.S. Department of Agriculture-licensed exhibitors are also exempt from CT ST § 26-40a’s ban on the possession of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans. All zoos are exempt from the state’s permit requirements for the importation and possession of those species of apes. However, all species of apes are regulated under the Federal Endangered Species Act and the Federal Animal Welfare Act, and all zoos are required to comply with federal licensure and permit requirements for the importation and possession of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans.

All zoos, regardless of their accreditation, are allowed to import and possess gibbons. There is no state permit requirement for the importation and possession of gibbons by zoos; however, gibbons are federally protected endangered species and those facilities must comply with federal requirements for the importation and possession of those apes.

Although there is no definition for the term “zoo” within the state’s Fisheries and Game Law or the Department of Environmental Protection’s regulations, the issue came to light in a 1994 case, State v. DeFrancesco, when an exotic cat owner claimed that she was operating a “zoo” and as a result was exempt from the state’s ban on “potentially dangerous animals.”[35] In that case, the defendant argued that the definition of “zoo” should be “any park, building, cage, enclosure, or other structure or premise in which a live animal or animals are kept for public exhibition or viewing, regardless of compensation.” The trial court noted that Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines a “zoo” as “a collection of living animals usually for display” and that in both definitions, the common element is that animals are kept for public exhibition.[36] In that case, the defendant provided evidence that she attempted to breed and sell her exotic cats, but she could not prove that she possessed those “potentially dangerous animals” for public exhibition.[37] Therefore, the trial court held (and the appellate court affirmed) that because she did not possess her exotic cats for public exhibition, the defendant was not a “zoo” and therefore not exempt from CT ST § 26-40a’s ban on the possession of potentially dangerous animals.

 

C. EXHIBITORS (USDA CLASS C LICENSEES)

Under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, circuses, wild animal parks, animal acts, and other exhibitors must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to possess apes.[38] All federally-licensed Class C exhibitors are exempt from the state’s potentially dangerous animal (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) ban.[39] However, under the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) wildlife regulations, it is illegal for all exhibitors, except the following to import gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans:[40]

  1. Municipal parks;
  2. Zoos;
  3. Nature centers; and
  4. Museums.

Also, under Sections 26-54 and 26-55 of Connecticut’s Fisheries and Game Law and Section 26-55-2 of the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) regulations, a DEP permit is required to import or possess any species of ape. The following exhibitors are exempt from the state’s permit requirement:

  1. Municipal parks;
  2. Zoos;
  3. Public nonprofit nature centers; and
  4. Museums where the animals are held in strict confinement.

Accordingly, private USDA-licensed exhibitors like circuses, wild animal parks, exotic animal sanctuaries, and performing animal acts may possess all species of apes with a DEP permit, but they may not import gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos or orangutans.

On the other hand, USDA-licensed municipal parks, zoos, public nonprofit nature centers, and museums where animals are held in strict confinement may import and possess all species of apes; no state permit is required. However, those facilities must comply with federal licensing and permit requirements.

 

D. SANCTUARIES

Connecticut has no laws governing the establishment of exotic animal sanctuaries, nor does it exempt such facilities from the potentially dangerous animal ban (covering gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos).[41] Sanctuaries that are also USDA-licensed exhibitors may possess all species of apes with a Department of Environmental Protection permit.[42] However, under DEP’s Wildlife regulations, they cannot import gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, or orangutans.[43] Sanctuaries may import gibbons with the appropriate federal and state permits.[44]

 

E. SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

Research facilities that are registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) may import and possess all species of apes for scientific research.[45] No state permits are required;[46] and the state does not regulate the use of apes by scientific research facilities. However, because all species of apes are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)[47] and the Federal Animal Welfare Act,[48] research facilities must comply with federal (ESA) permit requirements and USDA’s regulations governing the housing and care of primates.

 

IV. CONCLUSION

Connecticut’s various rules governing the importation and possession of apes may seem a bit confusing, but it helps to consider those rules in terms of what is prohibited, rather than what is allowed. “Potentially dangerous” apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans) cannot be imported or possessed except by federally licensed exhibitors and research facilities. Although they may be exempt from the “potentially dangerous animal” ban, most exhibitors still cannot import gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans and must have a DEP permit (and any necessary federal permits) to possess those animals (zoos, municipal parks, nature centers, and museums are exempt). Gibbons cannot be imported or possessed without a state permit (and any necessary federal permits). Research facilities and certain exhibitors are exempt from the DEP permit requirement for gibbons.

 



[1] A primate that weighs less than thirty-five pounds at maturity and that was imported or possessed by a person in Connecticut prior to October 1, 2003, shall not be considered a potentially dangerous animal. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-40a(b).

[4] Every day that a “potentially dangerous” ape (gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo, orangutan) is possessed in violation of the ban constitutes a separate offense. Any person who violates the ban shall (in addition to any criminal penalties) be assessed a civil penalty of up to $2,000 for each offense. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-40a(c).

[5] In addition to any court-ordered fines and imprisonment, violators may have their DEP permit(s) (or right to obtain a permit) voided or suspended for a certain amount of time, as provided in Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-61.

[7] Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22-344-21a. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 22-344(b) also state that “The commissioner, after consultation with the Commissioners of Public Health and Environmental Protection, shall establish and maintain… a list of animals which are deemed to be injurious to the health and safety of the public or whose maintenance in captivity is detrimental to the health and safety of the animal. The sale or offer of sale of any animal which is on said list is prohibited and any person who violates this provision shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars.” It is unclear whether this law also applies to breeders, private sellers, wholesalers, and other types of animal dealers. When read alone, the scope appears broad; however, this provision is located within Chapter 435, relating to kennels and pet shops. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 22-327(9) defines a pet shop as “any place at which animals not born and raised on the premises are kept for the purpose of sale to the public.”

[8] However, it is illegal for pet shops to exhibit or sell any animals, including gibbons, which exhibit obvious signs of infectious or nutritional diseases, severe parasitism, or fractures or certain congenital abnormalities. Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22-344-21a(11).

[10] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-1(13). Although many scientists may classify gibbons as “bipeds,” rather than “quadrupeds,” the legislature did not express an intention to exclude gibbons from the laws governing the possession of “quadrupeds.”

[11] Anyone who violates Section 26-54’s permit requirement for “quadrupeds” is subject to a maximum $100.00 fine. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-54.

[13] Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-54.1. DEP’s regulations do not include any specific requirements for the care and housing of quadrupeds.

[15] Every day that a “wild mammal” is possessed in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-55 constitutes a separate offense. Any person who violates this provision shall (in addition to any criminal penalties) be assessed a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each offense. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-55(c).

[16] In addition to any court-ordered fines and imprisonment, violators may have their DEP permit(s) (or right to obtain a permit) voided or suspended for a certain amount of time, as provided in Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-61.

[19] Assuming that gibbons are considered “quadrupeds” under the state’s definition of “quadruped” found in Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-1(13).

[22] Id.

[26] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 22-329; See also, Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 22-329a (seizure of cruelly treated or neglected animals).

[27] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 7-148(c)(7)(D, E, H).

[29] Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-54; Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 26-55; Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-55-2. As of June 12, 2011, the Department of Environmental Protection is considering new regulations which would outlaw the possession of gibbons as pets. http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?A=2586&Q=471192.

[33] Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-54.1. DEP’s regulations do not include any specific requirements for the care and housing of quadrupeds.

[34] There is also one ZAA-accredited facility in Connecticut, Lionshare Educational Organization (aka “Lionshare Farm Zoological LLC”), but it is unclear whether this facility is exempt from the “dangerous animal ban” because it is not a zoo that is open to the public for regular viewing of animals and is not currently licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as all zoos with exotic animals are required to be.

[35] State v. DeFrancesco, 34 Conn.App. 741 (1994).

[36] Id. at 745.

[37] Id. at 746.

[43] Conn. Agencies Regs. § 26-55-2(o) (listing the facilities that are exempt from the “potentially dangerous animal” importation ban).

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