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Overview of Oregon Great Ape Laws

Hanna Coate

Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law
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Overview of Oregon Great Ape Laws

In Oregon, apes are classified as “exotic” animals that pose health and safety risks to the community. On January 1, 2010, the state implemented a ban on the private possession of apes, but certain individuals are still allowed to keep pet apes with an Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) exotic animal permit.  Federally licensed or registered facilities can possess apes for exhibition or scientific research and no ODA exotic animal permit is required. However, it is illegal for anyone, including federally licensed or registered facilities, to breed apes in Oregon.

The importation of apes is closely regulated by the state. Anyone seeking to import an ape must obtain a permit from ODA. The agency has a variety of rules that are specifically geared toward the importation of primates and will not issue import permits to anyone that does not have approved facilities, equipment, and personnel. In addition, ODA requires that all apes entering the state be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary health stating that the animals are free from  certain diseases which primates are known to carry, including: tuberculosis, Salmonella, Arizona, Shigella, and internal and external parasites.

The state’s anti-cruelty laws and ODA’s exotic animal regulations protect some apes from mistreatment and substandard living conditions. The anti-cruelty laws prohibit the confinement of apes in unsanitary enclosures or without access to sufficient food and water, adequate space for exercise, and protection from the elements. Unless gross negligence can be shown, reasonable handling/training techniques and scientific research are exempt from the state’s anti-cruelty laws.

In addition to the general requirements in the anti-cruelty laws, ODA’s exotic animal regulations set certain minimum standards for the housing, care, and maintenance of apes that are possessed under an ODA permit. Those standards, which cover the construction and maintenance of indoor and outdoor facilities, sanitation, confinement, feeding, and transportation of apes apply only to those individuals who are required to have a permit to possess apes, namely  pet owners and individuals keeping their apes after their U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) license or registration expires. The state’s minimum standards of care do not apply to USDA-licensed exhibitors (circuses, zoos, wild animal parks, animal acts, etc.) and USDA-registered research facilities. However, because those entities are regulated by the USDA under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, they must comply with the federal standards of care for apes.

Although the state’s import permit program allows ODA officials to count the number of captive apes entering Oregon, the state does not have an accurate or comprehensive system of monitoring apes once they’ve entered the state. ODA can monitor and track apes held under an exotic animal permit, but federally regulated exhibitors, animal dealers, and research facilities are exempt from the exotic animal permit requirement, and are not required to register or otherwise report their apes to state or local officials. As a result, it is difficult to gage the actual number of captive apes that currently reside within the state.


For an in-depth legal analysis of Oregon's laws, see the Detailed Discussion.

Table of Oregon's Great Ape Laws

Table of Oregon's Great Ape Regulations

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