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Great Apes and the Law: A complete resource for the legal status of the Great Apes within the United States
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Detailed Discussion of Kansas 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

In Kansas, it is legal for anyone to import, possess, buy, and sell any species of ape for any purpose. There are no state permit or registration requirements for gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, or gibbons; however, those species are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act, and activities involving those animals may require federal permits. Kansas does not restrict or regulate the keeping of apes as pets, but under the state’s Pet Animal Act, certain facilities that maintain or sell pet animals (including primates) must become licensed by the Kansas Animal Health Department (KAHD). Those licensed facilities, including pet shops, animal shelters, and research facilities are required to meet KAHD’s minimum standards for the housing and care of pet animals. In addition, anyone bringing an ape into the state must comply with KAHD’s importation requirements, which include health certificates and tuberculosis testing.

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

Kansas does not have any laws that specifically address Great Apes, but there are a few state laws that apply to large groups of animals, including apes. The state’s wildlife laws authorize the importation, possession, purchase, and sale of exotic wildlife, which term includes apes. The Pet Animal Act regulates certain facilities that possess or sell pet animals, such as primates. The Kansas Animal Health Department regulates the importation of all domestic animals, including primates, and has developed certain rules that apply to domesticated wild animals and species that are known to carry or transmit tuberculosis. Finally, the state’s general anti-cruelty laws protect all vertebrate animals, including apes, from various forms of abuse and neglect.

A. WILDLIFE LAWS

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) is responsible for regulating all wildlife within the state, including apes and other exotic wild animals.[1] It is generally illegal to possess, purchase, sell, or transport any wildlife in Kansas, unless those activities are expressly authorized by statute or KDWPT regulations.[2] Section 115-20-3 of KDWPT’s regulations allows any person to import, possess, purchase, or sell exotic wildlife, including apes, as long as those animals were legally acquired and are confined or controlled at all times.[3] No state permits are required to import or possess apes or other exotic animals, and there is no limit on the number of exotic animals that a person may possess.[4]

B. PET ANIMAL ACT

In Kansas, it is legal to import, possess, breed, and sell[5] an ape as a pet or for any other purpose. The Pet Animal Act (PAA) identifies certain types of facilities that maintain and/or sell pet animals, including nonhuman primates,[6] and directs the Kansas Animal Health Department (KAHD) to regulate those facilities.[7] Pet shops, animal shelters, and research facilities are all covered under the PAA and, in addition to becoming licensed,[8] they must comply with KAHD’s requirements for the following:

  1. Facility construction and design;[9]
  2. Sanitation;[10]
  3. Temperature control;[11]
  4. Ventilation;[12]
  5. Lighting;[13]
  6. Minimum space for animals;[14]
  7. Records;[15]
  8. Food and water;[16]
  9. Animal health;[17] and
  10. Animal safety.[18]

In addition to those basic facility and care standards, KAHD requires all regulated facilities to handle their apes (and other animals) in a manner “which will not cause discomfort, stress, or physical harm.”[19] This requirement provides those animals with a greater level of protection against mistreatment than the state’s general anti-cruelty laws (discussed in Section IID, below).

There are currently four KAHD inspectors within the state who are responsible for inspecting all licensed facilities and investigating allegations of non-compliance with the PAA or KAHD’s regulations.[20] Any person who operates a pet shop, animal shelter, or research facility without a KAHD license, or who fails to meet the state’s minimum standards of care for animals, is guilty of a class A nonperson misdemeanor. Violators may be subject to any or all of the following penalties: criminal fines and/or imprisonment; civil fines; mandatory educational programs; forfeiture of animals whose health, safety, or welfare are endangered; and liability for the costs of caring for impounded animals.[21]

C. ANIMAL HEALTH RULES

The Kansas Animal Health Department’s (KAHD) Disease Control Division is responsible for preventing the spread of diseases among domestic animals, including nonhuman primates.[22] To meet that end, the division has developed certain import requirements for animals entering the state. No state import permits are required for apes; however, all zoo animals or domesticated wild animals must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection.[23] Also, because apes are susceptible to tuberculosis, any ape entering the state must have tested negative for that disease within 30 days prior to entry.[24]

In addition to those import requirements, KAHD maintains a list of infectious diseases that are particularly hazardous to animal and human health, and must be reported to the agency.[25] Many of those reportable diseases affect apes and other primates, including: Anthrax, rabies, tuberculosis, pullorum, and scabies. Anyone with knowledge of an ape (or other animal) that is infected with a reportable disease must notify KAHD.[26]

D. STATE GENERAL ANTI-CRUELTY LAWS

The state’s anti-cruelty laws,[27] which prohibit the neglect or mistreatment of animals,[28] generally apply to Great Apes in Kansas. Because all captive apes are necessarily dependent on their keepers, the requirement that custodians give their animals food, potable water, protection from the elements, opportunity for exercise, and other necessary care is particularly relevant.[29] In addition, 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 section that prohibits any person from knowingly injuring or (knowingly and maliciously[30]) maiming or torturing an animal may protect apes from being physically abused in the course of training, to induce performances, or for any other reason.[31]

The state’s anti-cruelty laws do not apply to the following activities:

  1. Normal or accepted veterinary practices;
  2. Bona fide experiments carried on by commonly recognized research facilities; and
  3. Accepted practices of animal husbandry pursuant to regulations promulgated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for domestic pet animals under the Federal Animal Welfare Act.[32]

Any law enforcement officer, public health officer, licensed veterinarian, or agent of a humane society or animal shelter may enforce the anti-cruelty laws and may confiscate any animal which clearly shows evidence of neglect or abuse.[33] A violation of the anti-cruelty laws is either a class A nonperson misdemeanor or a nonperson felony, depending on the particular offense and the defendant’s past history of similar convictions.[34]

E. LOCAL LAWS

While the importation and possession of apes are regulated under federal laws and a few state laws, county and municipal governments may also regulate those animals within their jurisdictions.[35] Typically, those local ordinances either restrict the possession of certain animals, regulate activities involving animals, or set minimum standards for the housing and care of animals. The following examples demonstrate how some towns, cities, and counties in Kansas have addressed the possession of apes (and other wild or exotic animals) within their communities:

Atchison 7-53: It is illegal to maintain or possess any Great Ape within the city limits. The ban does not apply to certain pet shops, livestock sale barns, zoos, circuses, carnivals, and educational or medical institutions, subject to local zoning, sanitation, and confinement requirements. (Ord. No. 5770, § 31, 5-21-90)

Chanute 6.04.010, 6.04.080: Apes are classified as “wild animals.” It is illegal to keep any wild animal as a pet or for other purposes within the city. Temporary petting zoos, performing animal exhibitions and circuses are exempt from the ban if they are properly permitted and insure the wild animals prior to bringing them into the city. Those facilities may not possess wild animals within the city for more than 30 days each year. (Ord. 2486 §12, 2002: Ord. 2296 §4(part), 1986).

El Dorado 6.20.010: It is illegal to keep or possess any ape within the city limits. The ban does not apply to certain pet shops, zoos, circuses, carnivals, and educational or medical institutions, subject to local zoning, sanitation, and confinement requirements; 6.08.081, 6.08.085, 6.08.100: All commercial animal enterprises (including pet shops, zoos, circuses, and other exhibitors) must have an annual city permit and are regularly inspected and monitored by local officials to ensure that their animals are housed and maintained according to the city’s minimum standards. Applications for permits for circuses and non-accredited zoos, “shall be investigated for reputation for historical compliance with similar laws in this jurisdiction and others.” In addition, those applicants must submit health certificates for all their animals, copies of all required federal permits and licenses, proof of liability insurance on the animals, and contact information for the applicant’s veterinarian. In addition, circuses and non-accredited zoos are subject to several detailed animal housing and care requirements. (Ord. G-1011 § 1 (part), 2007: Ord. G-1001 § 1 (part), 2007)

 

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 each of those purposes.

A. PETS

Under the state’s wildlife laws, it is legal for any person to possess a gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo, orangutan, or gibbon as a pet. (However, many local laws prohibit this practice.) There are no state permit or registration requirements, no limits on the number of apes that may be kept, and no minimum standards for the housing, maintenance, or care of those animals. Nor are there any state laws designed to protect the public from the safety risks posed by those animals, such as liability insurance, warning signs, or specific enclosure requirements.[36] In fact, as long as the animals are “controlled” at all times, it is legal for pet owners to take their apes out in public. 

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

Importation: Legal (see animal health requirements in Section II(C), above).

Transportation: Not restricted.

Possession: Legal.

Sale: Legal (see licensing and animal care requirements for pet shops discussed in Section IIB, above).

Breeding: Not restricted. Also, ape breeders are not regulated under the Pet Animal Act discussed in Section IIB), above.

Under the state’s general anti-cruelty laws (discussed in Section IID, above), ape owners must give their animals food, potable water, protection from the elements, opportunity for exercise, and other necessary care.

B. ZOOS

Kansas has no special rules governing the importation or possession of apes by zoos. All public and private zoos are regulated in the same manner as commercial exhibitors; see Section IIIC, below.

C. EXHIBITORS (USDA CLASS C LICENSEES)

There are various types of exhibitors that display apes, including: zoos, circuses, wild animal parks, and performing animal acts. Under the state’s wildlife laws, it is legal to import, possess, buy, and sell apes for any purpose, including exhibition. See Section IIA, above. There are no state permit or registration requirements for apes; however, any exhibitor importing those animals must comply with the import rules discussed in Section IIC. Kansas does not regulate zoos, circuses, or other exhibitors, nor does it have any minimum standards for the housing and care their animals. The only state laws protecting apes in circuses, zoos, and other similar enterprises are the general anti-cruelty laws which require those facilities to give their animals food, potable water, protection from the elements, opportunity for exercise, and other necessary care. See Section IID, above. In addition, all exotic animal exhibitors are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act[37] and must comply with the federal minimum standards of care for primates.

D. SANCTUARIES

Kansas’s Dangerous Regulated Animals Law provides the state’s only definition of a “wildlife sanctuary.” According to KS ST § 32-1301, a “wildlife sanctuary” means a nonprofit organization that operates a place of refuge where abused, unwanted, or displaced dangerous regulated animals are provided lifetime care and are not used for entertainment or commercial activities.[38] Under this law, only those facilities housing “dangerous regulated animals” (lions, tiger, and bears) are considered “wildlife sanctuaries.” There are no laws addressing the establishment of sanctuaries for apes or other species that are not considered dangerous regulated animals.

In general, it is legal for anyone to import, possess, buy, and sell apes. Under the Pet Animal Act (discussed in Section IIB, above), any facility that is used to house relinquished, seized, or homeless animals (including nonhuman primates)[39] must be licensed by the Kansas Animal Health Department and must comply with the agency’s animal housing and care requirements. Also, any facility housing apes must comply with the state’s general anti-cruelty laws, which require those facilities to give their animals food, potable water, protection from the elements, opportunity for exercise, and other necessary care. See Section IID, above. Finally, any sanctuary that is open to the public is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act[40] and must comply with the federal minimum standards of care for primates.

E. RESEARCH FACILITIES

All research facilities, as defined in the Pet Animal Act (PAA), located within the state must be licensed by the Kansas Animal Health Department (KAHD). Once licensed, those facilities may import, possess, buy, and sell apes. (See Section IIA, above.) There are no state permit requirements, though federal and local permits may be necessary. Also, any research facility importing apes must comply with KAHD’s animal health rules discussed in Section IIC, above.

In addition to licensing research facilities, KAHD regulates the housing, maintenance, and care of laboratory animals, including apes. See Section IIB, above. All research facilities are subject to periodic inspections and investigations to ensure compliance with the PAA. Although research facilities are generally exempt from the state’s anti-cruelty laws, the PAA includes many similar requirements, which do apply to research facilities. Besides setting certain enclosure, sanitation, feeding, and animal health requirements, the PAA makes it illegal for researchers to handle any animal[41] in a manner that causes discomfort, stress, or physical harm. Also, all research facilities with apes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act[42] and must comply with the federal minimum standards of care for laboratory primates.

 

IV. CONCLUSION

In general, Kansas is among the most unregulated states in terms of the importation, possession, and sale of apes. Anyone can possess those animals for any purpose and no state permits are required. Individuals who keep apes as pets or for commercial exhibition (zoos, circuses, wild animal parks, etc.) are completely unregulated by the state. Certain facilities that maintain and/or sell pet animals, including primates, for commercial purposes (pet shops, animal shelters, and research facilities) must comply with facility licensing requirements and certain minimum standards for the care of their animals. Because of the large gaps in the state-level regulation of apes, many counties and cities in Kansas have adopted ordinances which either prohibit or restrict the possession of those animals.

 



[1] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-801; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-701(u) (defining “wildlife”); See also, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-805 (role of the Wildlife and Parks commission).

[2] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-1002.

[3] Kan. Admin. Regs. 115-20-3; “Exotic wildlife” shall only include those wildlife species which are non-migratory and are not native or indigenous to Kansas, or do not presently exist in Kansas as an established wild population. Kan. Admin. Regs. 115-20-3(d); See also, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-1004 (unlawful importation of illegally possessed wildlife), Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-703 (privately owned wildlife that was not legally acquired is property of the state of Kansas), and Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6418 (making it a misdemeanor to keep a dangerous or vicious animal without taking ordinary care to restrain the animal).

[4] Kan. Admin. Regs. 115-20-3(b); See also, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-956 (authorizing KDWPT to establish a list of prohibited animals which require an import permit).

[5] Under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1713, the livestock commissioner (appointed by the Kansas Animal Health Board) has the authority to prohibit the sale or gift of animals “which constitute a hazard to human health or safety or to animal health or safety.” No such prohibition exists regarding the sale or transfer of apes.

[7] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1701 et seq.; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1712; Certain facilities, such as breeders and animal distributers, are regulated under the PAA only if they maintain, breed, and/or sell dogs or cats. Those types of facilities are not discussed herein.

[8] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1703 (pet shop license); Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1704 (pound or animal shelter license); Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1720 (research facility license); See also, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1721 and Kan. Admin. Code 9-18-1 (licensing and inspection fees).

[20] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1709; http://www.kansas.gov/kahd/laws/afip.shtml (last visited July 26, 2011). Any KAHD inspector who knowingly falsifies the results or findings of any inspection or investigation or who intentionally fails or refuses to make an inspection or conduct an investigation shall be guilty of a class A nonperson misdemeanor. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1709(g); See also, Kan. Admin. Code 9-18-2 and Kan. Admin. Code 9-18-3 (facility inspections and investigations).

[22] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-610; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-635; See also, http://www.kansas.gov/kahd/about_us.shtml#diseasecontrol (last visited July 26, 2011).

[23] Kan. Admin. Code 9-7-11.

[25] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-622; Kan. Admin. Code 9-27-1.

[26] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-622; See also, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-660 (KAHD officials have “free access” to enter any premises with animals suspected of having any infectious disease).

[28] For purposes of the anti-cruelty laws, “animal” means any living vertebrate except a human being. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6411.

[30] “Maliciously” means a state of mind characterized by actual evil-mindedness or specific intent to do a harmful act without a reasonable justification or excuse. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6412(j).

[32] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-6412(c). This section includes a variety of other exemptions which are not relevant to the keeping of apes.

[35] Kan. Const. Art. 12 § 5; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 12-101; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 19-101; Kan. Stat. Ann. § 19-101a.

[36] But see, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-1301et seq. (Dangerous Regulated Animals law, which restricts and regulates the possession of “dangerous wild animals,” including lions, tigers, other exotic cats, and bears, but not apes or other nonhuman primates).

[38] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 32-1301.

[39] Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1701(d) and (g) (defining “animal shelter” and “animal” to include nonhuman primates.

[41] For purposes of the Pet Animal Act, “animal” means “any live dog, cat, rabbit, rodent, nonhuman primate, bird or other warm-blooded vertebrate or any fish, snake or other cold-blooded vertebrate.Kan. Stat. Ann. § 47-1701(d)(1).

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