Nevada does not have any laws that directly address the protection of great apes. While the state of Nevada controls possession and importation of native endangered species by law, great apes are not specifically identified or addressed (NV ST 503.584 et seq.). Nevada’s administrative code also exempts “monkeys and other primates” from the permitting requirements required for possession, transport, and sale of other wild animals.
In addition to the lack of prohibition on private ownership of great apes, there is a list of commercial uses that are allowed. These include zoos, aquariums, limited duration entertainment or commercial photography, research or scientific use, and a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that exhibits wildlife solely for educational or scientific purposes (NV Admin Code 503.110(3)).
Like other states, Nevada does not define great apes as “endangered,” either under its own endangered species law (NV ST 503.584 – 589) or any regulations.
II. How Different Uses of Great Apes are Affected by Law
Nevada’s law does not prohibit private possession of great apes. However, different activities are addressed by various state laws. The law regulates the possession of great apes depending on whether a person possesses an ape privately (e.g., as a “pet”), at a zoological display, as a sanctuary, or for scientific research purposes. This section examines the laws by those uses.
A. Private Possession of Great Apes
Nevada code section 501.181 authorizes the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to enact regulations concerning the protection, propagation, restoration, transplanting, introduction, and management of wildlife in the state. Pursuant to this statute, Nevada’s administrative code prohibits the importation, transportation, or possession of certain species of live wildlife (503.110). Exemptions include zoos, aquariums, limited duration entertainment or commercial photography, research or scientific use, and a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that exhibits wildlife solely for educational or scientific purposes (503.110(3)). Some animals may be possessed, transported, imported, and exported without a permit or license issued by the Department, including “monkeys and other primates” (503.140(1)(m)).
B. Possession by Zoological Display
Nevada’s administrative code allows for the importation, transportation, and possession of great apes by zoos under section 503.110(3)(a). To qualify for this exception, a zoo must be an accredited institutional member of the Zoological Association of America. There are no listed standards of care for animals in such zoos, and enforcement and inspection provisions are vague.
While state law or regulation does not use the term “sanctuary,” it appears that possession here is governed by Nevada’s administrative code section 504.490 – 98, which covers wildlife rehabilitation permits in Nevada. The Nevada department of wildlife may issue permits for the rehabilitation of wildlife for return to the wild or other suitable habitat. While the language of the regulation suggests it only applies to native species, the section’s reference to wildlife that is threatened or endangered is broad enough to cover great apes. This section only contemplates temporary housing of wildlife, as wildlife cannot be held for more than 90 days (504.498(1)(b)). The regulation does not specify standards of care for wildlife. However, when applying for a permit, an applicant must include “a complete description, including a diagram, of the holding facilities, cages or aquaria . . . that will be used to confine the wildlife during its rehabilitation” (504.492(k)). Also, a holder of a permit must comply with the terms, conditions, and restrictions of the permit, as well as allow Department employees to inspect the wildlife and holding facilities (504.494(1)).
D. Scientific Testing and Research Facilities
Scientific testing and research of protected wildlife is covered by the same regulation allowing for taking and possession of great apes by zoos. Under NV Admin Code 503.110, Nevada allows for the taking and possession of protected wildlife for “scientific purposes,” including scientific or public health research and medical necessity. The state’s anti-cruelty law also exempts scientific research from its provisions.
As great apes are not used in testing in the United States, this is not an issue.
III. State Laws Affecting Great Apes in Nevada
Nevada addresses the use and possession of great apes through two primary avenues in its laws. Nevada does not prohibit private possession of great apes under its laws or regulations. It also does not specifically list great apes under state law as an endangered species. However, great apes are protected from intentional cruelty and neglect under the state’s anti-cruelty provision.
A. Importation, Introduction, and Transplantation of Wildlife Regulation (NV Admin Code § 503.108 – 140)
Nevada’s administrative code addresses the importation of wildlife under sections 503.108 – 140. The regulation is meant to prohibit the importation, transportation, or possession of certain species of live wildlife. However, the law allows for importation of certain wildlife without a permit, including “monkeys and other primates.”
1. Which Great Apes are Covered?
“Monkeys and other primates” may be possessed, transported, imported, and exported without a permit or license from the Department (503.140(1)(m)).
2. What is Prohibited?
This section prohibits the importation, transportation, or possession of certain species of live wildlife. However, the possession, transport, and sale of certain animals are exempted from the Department’s permit and license requirements. “Monkeys and other primates” are listed as species exempt from the permit requirements. The effect of this section is to allow for private possession of great apes in Nevada.
3. Standards for Great Apes Kept Under Nevada’s Importation Prohibitions Exceptions
This section does not deal with housing conditions. In most of the cases where an animal is held under an exception to the state law, a federal permit will be required and housing issues are addressed under the federal regulations. [See 9 C.F.R. 3.75 – 3.92 (housing, feeding and related care for non-human primates); 42 C.F.R. 9.4 & 9.6 (relating to chimpanzees in sanctuaries); 64 Fed Reg 38145 (relating to psychological well-being of non-human primates held by dealers, exhibitors and research facilities)].
This section does not deal with penalties. It is also unclear what the consequences to the wildlife will be after a violation of this section has occurred.
B. Endangered Species: Protection and Propagation of Native Fauna (NV ST § 503.584 – 589)
The entire thrust of Nevada’s endangered species law is geared towards the protection of native species. The law contains no reference to the federal endangered species act, meaning that great apes are not protected under the State’s endangered species provisions.
Nevada’s anti-cruelty statute is generally applicable to great apes. The statute provides that a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if he or she overdrives, overloads, tortures, cruelly beats or unjustifiably injures, maims, mutilates, or kills “an animal.” (574.100). The law also applies to depriving, neglecting, or refusing to furnish an animal with necessary sustenance, food, or drink. A person also commits the offense of cruelty to animals if he or she abandons an animal outside of the circumstances prohibited in section 574.110. Violation results in imprisonment for not less than 2 days and not more than 6 months. Violators must also perform not less than 48 hours but not more than 120 hours of community service. Finally, a violator shall also be punished with a fine of not less than $200 but not more than $1,000. The statute provides penalty enhancements for second and subsequent convictions.
In addition to the intentional acts of cruelty listed under section 574.100, Nevada’s anti-cruelty law also addresses neglect of animals under section 574.120. Under this section, a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if he or she refuses to supply an impounded or confined animal with “a sufficient supply of good and wholesome air, food, shelter and water.” Violations under this section result in the same penalties as listed for intentional cruelty to animals under section 574.100.
There are several exceptions to Nevada’s anti-cruelty statute, but only two of them might possibly apply to great apes. The anti-cruelty law does not apply to scientific experiments or investigations by the faculty of a medical college or university of the State. It also does not apply to scientific or physiological experiments conducted for the advancement of science or medicine.
Nevada law does not specifically address great apes in any of its laws. While regulations prohibit the possession, transportation, and sale of certain wildlife without a permit, “monkeys and other primates” are exempt from these requirements. State law and accompanying regulations also clearly allow the use of great apes and other wild animals in zoological displays. These regulations contain very few standards of care for animals in such zoos, and enforcement and inspection provisions are vague. As is true with many states, there is not an overall law that directly addresses the protection of great apes or the specific needs of apes in captivity.