Animal Legal and Historical Center
Great Apes and the Law: A complete resource for the legal status of the Great Apes within the United States
Michigan State University College of Law

General information

Federal and International

State

Specific State Information

  • Missouri
  • Florida
  • California
  • Texas
Share |

Detailed Discussion of Louisiana 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

According to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC), the possession of certain nonhuman primates “poses significant hazards to public safety and health,” and “is detrimental to the welfare of the animals.” On April 20, 2006, LWFC outlawed the importation, possession, purchase, and sale of gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gibbons, and all other nonhuman primates. As a result, it is illegal to possess apes as pets and for most commercial purposes in Louisiana. Accredited zoos, research facilities, and the Chimp Haven are exempt from the ban. Also, certain non-accredited zoos, accredited wildlife sanctuaries, and out-of state circuses may import and possess apes with a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) permit. In addition to those exemptions, any individual who possessed an ape immediately prior to April 20, 2006 may keep that ape for the remainder of the animal’s life with an LDWF permit, subject to certain restrictions and requirements. Facilities importing apes must comply with any state and federal permit requirements, as well as the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s reporting and health certificate requirements. Although the state’s laws do not include specific minimum standards for the housing and care of apes, certain statutes and regulations make individuals liable (civilly and/or criminally)  for the neglect, abuse, or improper confinement of those animals.

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

Louisiana has a variety of laws affecting the possession, use, and treatment of apes. The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission’s regulations restrict the importation, possession, purchase, sale, and breeding of nonhuman primates. The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s animal health regulations include importation requirements for wild and semi-wild animals. Certain sections of the state’s Criminal Code prohibit animal cruelty and the sport killing of zoo and circus animals. Finally, several different statutes either assign or limit personal liability for injuries or damages caused by animals.

 

A. REGULATION OF NONHUMAN PRIMATES

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) is responsible for controlling and supervising the wildlife of the state.[1] LA RS § 56:6 directs LWFC to develop regulations governing the importation and possession of nonhuman primates.[2] In April of 2006, the Commission published the following policy statement regarding the possession of nonhuman primates:

[P]ossession of certain potentially dangerous … non-human primates poses significant hazards to public safety and health, [and] is detrimental to the welfare of the animals ... . The size and strength of such animals in concert with their natural and unpredictable and/or predatory nature can result in severe injury or death when an attack upon a human occurs. Often such attacks are unprovoked and a person other than the owner, often a child, is the victim. Furthermore, there is no approved rabies vaccine for such animals, so even minor scratches and injuries inflicted upon humans or other animals could be deadly. Responsible possession of these potentially dangerous … non-human primates necessitates that they be confined in secure facilities. Prolonged confinement is by its nature stressful to these animals and proper long-term care by experienced persons is essential to the health and welfare of these animals and to society.[3]

On April 20, 2006, LWFC finalized regulations making it illegal to import, possess, purchase, or sell any species of nonhuman primate within the state.[4] The following entities are exempt from the ban:

  1. Zoos that are accredited or certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA);[5]
  2. Research facilities, including but not limited to: the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Primate Center, the Tulane National Primate Research Center, and Chimp Haven, Inc.;
  3. Any person transporting an animal through the state, if transit time is less than 24 hours, and the animal is sufficiently confined at all times and is not exhibited while in the state; and
  4. Certain out-of-state circuses.[6]

The following entities may possess apes with a permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF):

  1. Non-accredited zoos and certain educational institutions;[7]
  2. Animal sanctuaries that are accredited or certified by the AZA, that do not breed, exhibit, or sell the animals, and that adhere to LWFC’s housing, confinement, and transportation requirements;[8]

Also, any individual who possessed an ape immediately prior to April 20, 2006 and can prove legal ownership of the animal, may possess the ape for the remainder of the animal’s life with an LDWF permit, which must be renewed annually. Apes possessed under this exemption must have a microchip or tattoo, and must be examined by a veterinarian annually to ensure that the animals are free from infectious diseases. Permitted individuals keeping “grandfathered apes” may not breed their animals or acquire new apes, and must comply with LWFC’s confinement and reporting requirements.[9]

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforces LWFC’s nonhuman primate regulations and the agency’s enforcement officers may seize any illegally possessed ape.[10] Anyone who imports, possesses, purchases, or sells an ape in violation of these regulations is guilty of a Class Two violation. In addition to any civil and criminal penalties, convicted defendants may also lose any LDWF permits and forfeit illegally possessed animals.[11] LA RS § 56:56 authorizes any person who is in illegal possession of an ape (or other animal) to voluntarily surrender that animal to LDWF without facing civil or criminal penalties.[12]                                                   

 

B. ANIMAL HEALTH RULES

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s (LDAF) Veterinary Health Division regulates the importation of animals to prevent the introduction of infectious diseases.[13] The agency does not require import permits for apes or other exotic or wild animals entering the state. However, under Section 2101 of LDAF’s regulations, anyone importing wild or semi-wild animals must file a report with the State Veterinarian within 10 days of the date of shipment and must make the animals available for an entry inspection.[14] Also, those animals must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary health stating that they are free from signs of infectious or contagious diseases.[15] Anyone who fails to comply with these animal importation rules may be fined up to $1,000 dollars, imprisoned up to a year, or both. In addition, violators are liable to any injured person for damages resulting from a violation.[16]

 

C. STATE GENERAL ANTI-CRUELTY LAWS

The state’s anti-cruelty laws,[17] which prohibit the neglect or mistreatment of animals, generally apply to Great Apes in Louisiana. Because all captive apes are necessarily dependent on their keepers, the requirement that custodians give their animals proper food,[18] water,[19] shelter,[20] and veterinary care[21] is particularly relevant.[22] In addition, apes are sometimes trained or induced to perform for public entertainment with chemical, electrical, mechanical, or manual devices that inflict physical or psychological injuries. Accordingly, the section that prohibits any person from mistreating an animal in any manner causing unnecessary or unjustifiable pain[23] may protect apes from being physically abused in the course of training, to induce performances, or for any other reason.

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

  1. Accepted veterinary practices; and
  2. Activities carried on for scientific or medical research governed by accepted standards.[24]

Law enforcement agents and animal control officers may enforce the state’s anti-cruelty laws and may seize cruelly treated animals.[25] LA RS § 14:102.1 separates the prohibited acts into either “simple cruelty” or “aggravated cruelty” and establishes certain penalties for each category of offenses, including: fines (up to $25,000); imprisonment (with or without hard labor for up to 10 years); forfeiture of animal victim(s); liability for the costs of caring for seized animal victims; a court-ordered prohibition on owning or keeping animals for a certain period of time; mandatory community service; and a court-ordered psychological evaluation and/or psychological or anger management treatment.[26]

 

D. SPORT KILLING OF ZOO OR CIRCUS ANIMALS

Under Section 102.20 of the state’s Criminal Code, it is illegal for any person to kill (or acquire for the purpose of killing) any zoo or circus animals, including apes, for sport. This prohibition extends to zoos and circuses, which may not transfer their unwanted animals to any business or activity wherein the animals may be killed for sport. Any person who violates this law may be fined up to $500 dollars, imprisoned up to six months, or both.[27]

 

E. LIABILITY FOR DAMAGES CAUSED BY ANIMALS

Louisiana has several laws which either assign or limit liability for injuries or damages caused by animals. The following list outlines those laws as they relate to the ownership or possession of apes:

(1) Assignment of Liability

(a) Criminal Liability: If an ape (or other animal) injures or kills a person, the animal’s owner or possessor is guilty of “negligent injuring” or “negligent homicide” (respectively), if the owner/possessor was reckless and criminally negligent in confining or restraining the animal.[28]

(b) Civil Liability: The owner of an ape (or other animal) is liable for damages caused by the animal if: (1) the owner knew, or should have known, that the animal’s behavior would cause damage; (2) the damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care; and (3) the owner failed to exercise reasonable care.[29] In Brown v. City of Alexandria, a city zoo was liable for injuries caused by a chimpanzee (named Old Schofield) when the animal reached out of his cage and attacked a nine year-old boy who was attempting to feed the chimpanzee candy. In that case, the zoo knew that Old Schofield had been abused by members of the public and had a propensity to become enraged or attack. The zoo was negligent because it failed to confine Old Schofield in a cage that would have prevented him from reaching out and grabbing the boy and (alternatively) it failed to erect a fence that would have kept the boy away from Old Schofield’s cage.[30] As a result if its negligence, the zoo was required to pay for the boy’s injuries.

(2) Limitation on Liability

(a) Animal Sanctuaries: A nonprofit organization which operates an animal sanctuary (and any officer, employee, or volunteer thereof) is not liable for any injury, death, loss, or damage in connection with any of the following events: the Chimp Haven Festival, Dixie Chimps art contest, Les Boutiques de Noel, SciPort and Chimp Haven events, Run Wild and Have a Field Day, Eye-20 Art Show Gala, Krewe of Barkus and Meow Paws parade, Krewe of Centaur parade, Krewe of Highland parade, garden tour, ChimpStock, and any other educational and public awareness activities in which the organization sponsors or participates, unless the loss or damage was caused by the deliberate and wanton act or gross negligence of the organization or any officer, employee, or volunteer thereof.[31]

(b) Agritourism[32] Activities: Agritourism operators are generally not liable to participants in agritourism activities[33] (such as petting zoos and animal ranches) for any death, injuries, or damages caused by their animals, because the behavior of wild and domestic animals is considered an inherent risk of agritourism activities. This limitation on liability applies only to those agritourism professionals who have an approved “agritourism plan of operation”[34] and have posted the required warning signs at the entrance to the agritourism location and at the site of the agritourism activities.[35]

 

F. LOCAL LAWS

While the importation and possession of apes are regulated under both federal and state laws, parish and municipal governments may also regulate animals within their jurisdictions.[36] Typically, those local ordinances either restrict the possession of 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 parishes in Louisiana have addressed the possession of apes (and other wild or exotic animals) within their communities:

Baton Rouge, East Baton Rouge Parish 14:300 et seq: Intent: The metropolitan council finds and declares that wild or exotic animals often pose serious threat to human health and safety and can cause severe environmental damage. These animals have very specific biological requirements best met in their natural environment. When it is necessary to confine them in captivity, they should be under the supervision of qualified zoological or otherwise competent professional caretakers. Furthermore, it is unsuitable and cruel to involve them in any display, act, or exhibit which causes them to engage in unnatural behavior or expose the public to potential injury… .” It is illegal to own, possess, sell, or keep a wild or exotic animal as a pet in the parish, subject to the grandfather clause in Section 14:304. It is illegal for anyone to keep wild or exotic animals for exhibition purposes, except AZA accredited zoos, circuses, veterinary clinics, certain performing animal exhibitions, and governmental institutions that meet the local permit requirements. Also, no person may sponsor, promote, or train a wild or exotic animal in, or attend as a spectator, any activity in which any wild or exotic animal engages in unnatural behavior or is mentally or physically harassed, abused, or mentally or physically stressed, or has the potential to injure a human being. This prohibition applies to activities taking place on public or private property, regardless of the purpose of activities and irrespective of whether the activities are conducted gratuitously or for a fee. (Ord. No. 9634 § 1, 5-26-93)

Denham Springs 18-146 et seq: It is illegal to keep any wild or exotic animal as a pet within the city limits. It is illegal for anyone, except zoos and veterinary clinics, to keep any wild or exotic animal for display or exhibition. Any person who offers a wild or exotic animal for sale must post conspicuously at the place of sale a sign stating the following: “No person may lawfully keep or permit to be kept in the city any carnivorous mammals, i.e. live monkey (nonhuman primate), raccoon, skunk, wolf, squirrel, fox, leopard, panther or cougar, tiger, lion, lynx, or any other warm-blooded animal, poisonous snake, tarantula, crocodile or alligator which can normally be found in the wild state.” (Code 1987, § 4:201 et seq.)

Jefferson Parish 7-25; 7-96(f); 7-105; 7-32: All apes are classified as Class 1 exotic/wild animals. It is illegal for any person to keep any Class 1 exotic/wild animal in the parish. The ban does not apply to zoos, performing animal exhibitions, or circuses with local permits.

 

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

As of April 20, 2006, it is illegal to import, possess, purchase, or sell any ape (or other nonhuman primate) for use as a pet. LWFC’s regulations include an exception for any individual who possessed an ape immediately prior to April 20, 2006, has a valid LDWF permit, and complies with the agency’s other requirements discussed in Section IIA, above.

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

Importation: Prohibited.

Transportation: Grandfathered apes (that are possessed with a LDWF permit) may not be transported to any public building or place where the public may come into contact with the animal, including, but not limited to schools, hospitals or malls.[37]

Possession: Prohibited. See exception for grandfathered apes, discussed in Section II(A), above.

Sale: Prohibited.

Breeding: Prohibited.

 

B. ZOOS

Under Section 115 of LWFC’s regulations, it is generally illegal to import, possess, purchase, or sell any ape (or other nonhuman primate) in Louisiana. AZA accredited or certified zoos are exempt from the ban. There are currently three facilities in Louisiana that qualify for this exemption: the Alexandria Zoological Park (Alexandria), the Audubon Zoo (New Orleans), and BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo (Baton Rouge).[38] Non-AZA accredited zoos may also be exempt if they possess an LDWF permit to possess an ape and comply with all permit conditions. See Section IIA, above.

Louisiana has no laws or regulations establishing minimum standards for the housing or care of apes in zoos. However, AZA accredited facilities must house and maintain their animals in conformance with AZA’s minimum standards. Also, non-accredited zoos may have specific housing and care requirements under their LDWF permits. Furthermore, all zoos are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act[39] and must comply with the federal minimum standards of care for primates. In addition, the state’s general anti-cruelty laws require all zoos (and other custodians) to give their animals proper food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. See Section IIC, above. Finally, Section 102.20 of the state’s criminal code makes it illegal for zoos to transfer their unwanted animals to any person who will kill the animal(s) for sport.

 

C. EXHIBITORS (USDA CLASS C LICENSEES)

There are various types of exhibitors that display apes, including: circuses, wild animal parks, and performing animal acts. Under Section 115 of LWFC’s regulations, it is generally illegal for all animal exhibitors to import, possess, purchase, or sell any ape (or other nonhuman primate) in Louisiana. (Zoos are discussed separately in Section IIIB above.) There is one limited exception for out-of-state circuses (meaning U.S. Department of Agriculture licensed enterprises offering performances by live animals, clowns, and acrobats for public entertainment) that are in the state temporarily and have an LDWF permit to possess apes (and any necessary federal permits). Circuses that offer any of the following activities involving apes or other “listed animals”[40] are not eligible for this exemption: animal wrestling, photographic opportunities with patrons, or activities in which the animals and patrons are in close contact with each other.[41]

In addition to those exemptions, any individual who possessed an ape immediately prior to April 20, 2006 may keep the ape for the remainder of the animal’s life with a valid LDWF permit and in compliance with the other requirements discussed in Section IIA, above.

Louisiana has no specific minimum standards of care for apes that are possessed by circuses and other exhibitors. However, all circuses and other ape exhibitors 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 primates. Also, the state’s general anti-cruelty laws require those facilities to give their animals proper food, water, shelter, and veterinary care and prohibit the inhumane transport and physical abuse of animals. See Section IIC, above.

 

D. SANCTUARIES

Louisiana is the home to the nation’s only federal chimpanzee sanctuary, Chimp Haven.[43] Although it is generally illegal to import, possess, purchase, or sell apes in Louisiana, Chimp Haven is expressly exempt from that ban. Any other animal sanctuary that is accredited or certified by the AZA may also be exempt if it has an LDWF permit and complies with the other requirements discussed in Section II(A), above. There are currently no AZA accredited or certified animal sanctuaries in Louisiana. As a result, Chimp Haven is the only sanctuary that is legally allowed to import and possess apes. When Chimp Haven imports apes from out-of-state, it must comply with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s animal import rules (discussed in Section IIB, above) and any federal permit requirements.

In addition to specifically exempting Chimp Haven from its nonhuman primate ban, Louisiana has a law that protects the sanctuary from liability for injuries or damages caused by its animals. As discussed in Section IIE(2)(a) above, LA RS § 9:2796.2 states that the organization, its officers, employees, and volunteers are generally not liable for any injury, death, loss, or damage in connection with Chimp Haven events.

Louisiana does not regulate the possession, housing, or care of apes at Chimp Haven. However, the sanctuary is very heavily monitored and regulated by the Federal Government (specifically, the National Center for Research Resources) under the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act.[44]

 

E. RESEARCH FACILITIES

Apes may be imported and possessed by research facilities that are registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Primate Center and the Tulane National Primate Research Center. Any research facility importing apes must comply with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s (LDAF) animal import rules (discussed in Section II(B), above) and federal permit requirements.

Louisiana does not regulate the use of apes in scientific research. However, all research facilities with primates are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act[45] and those facilities must comply with the federal minimum standards of care for laboratory apes.

 

IV. CONCLUSION

As of April 20, 2006, it is generally illegal for anyone (except accredited zoos, research facilities, and the Chimp Haven) to import, possess, purchase, or sell apes in Louisiana. Certain non-accredited zoos, accredited wildlife sanctuaries, and out-of-state circuses may import and possess those animals with the proper state and federal permits. In addition, individuals who legally possessed apes immediately prior to April 20, 2006 may keep those apes for the remainder of the animals’ lives with a LDWF permit, subject to certain restrictions and legal requirements. It is important to note that anyone who can legally import or possess apes under state law is also subject to a variety of federal and local laws, which may further restrict or regulate those activities.

 



[1] La. Const. art. IX § 7; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:1.

[2] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:6(30).

[5] The regulation actually refers to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, but the organization’s name has been changed to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

[10] La. Admin. Code tit. 76, pt. I, § 305; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:56.

[11] La. Admin. Code tit. 76, pt. V, § 115(J); La. Admin. Code tit. 76, pt. I, § 305; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:39; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:40.1; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:40.7; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:40.8; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:40.1.

[12] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 56:56.

[13] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:2095.

[14] La. Admin. Code tit. 7, pt. XXI, § 2101.

[15] La. Admin. Code tit. 7, pt. XXI, § 2101; La. Admin. Code tit. 7, pt. XXI, § 107; See also, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:2097 (unlawful importation of diseased animals).

[16] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:2096.

[18] For purposes of the anti-cruelty laws, “proper food” means “providing each animal with daily food of sufficient quality and quantity to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering by the animal.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102(3).

[19] For purposes of the anti-cruelty laws, “proper water” means “providing each animal with daily water of sufficient quality and quantity to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering by the animal.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102(4).

[20] For purposes of the anti-cruelty laws, “proper shelter” means “providing each animal with adequate shelter from the elements as required to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering by the animal.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102(5).

[21] For purposes of the anti-cruelty laws, “proper veterinary care” means “providing each animal with veterinary care sufficient to prevent unnecessary or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering by the animal.” La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102(6).

[23] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.1(A)(1)(i); La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.1(B)(4); See also, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.1(A)(1)(f) (cruel or inhumane transport), La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.1(B)(1) (prohibition on torturing, maiming, and mutilating animals), and La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.1(A)(1)(j) and (B)(3) (anyone causing or procuring prohibited acts is also guilty of animal cruelty).

[24] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:2501(C). This section includes other exemptions that are not relevant to the keeping of apes.

[25] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:2501; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.2; See also, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.3 (search warrants) and La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:102.4 (authorizing law enforcement officers to enter any premises to feed or water an animal that has been deprived of the same for more than 24 hours).

[28] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:39; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:32.

[29] La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2321.

[30] Brown v. City of Alexandria, 225 So.2d 157 (1969).

[31] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2796.2.

[32] “Agritourism” means the travel or visit by the general public to, or the practice of inviting the general public to travel to or visit, a working farm, ranch, or other commercial agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural, or forestry operation for the purpose of enjoyment, education, or participation in the activities of the farm, ranch, or other agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural, or forestry operation. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2795.5(1).

[33] A list of activities that are considered “agritourism activities” is found in La. Admin. Code tit. 7, pt. XLV, § 103.

[34] La. Admin. Code tit. 7, pt. XLV, § 105; See also, La. Admin. Code tit. 7, pt. XLV, § 101 (defining agritourism plan of operation).

[35] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 2795.5.

[36] La. Const. art. VI § 5; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 3:3021; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33:1373; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33:1374; La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 4:7.

[38] http://www.aza.org/findzooaquarium/ (last visited July 30, 2011); One additional non-zoo facility, the Audubon Nature Institute Center for Research of Endangered Species, is certified by AZA. http://www.aza.org/current-cert/ (last visited July 30, 2011).

[40] See, La. Admin. Code tit. 76, pt. V, § 115(C) (list of animals included within the prohibition).

[43] For more information on the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary System, see https://www.animallaw.info/articles/great_apes/ddusgafdchimpact.htm (last visited July 30, 2011).

Top of Page
Share |