In Arizona, most species of apes including chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos are classified as “restricted live wildlife” by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission (GFC) and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (GFD). To date, GFC has not added gibbons to the list of “restricted live wildlife;” as a result, those primates are regulated differently than the other species of apes. According to GFC’s Live Wildlife rules, it is generally illegal to keep “restricted” apes without a GFD-issued license. The agency does not issue licenses to keep restricted apes as pets or assistance animals. Other qualified individuals and entities may import, possess, and sell restricted apes for approved commercial, educational, humane, or scientific purposes with a state license or a lawful exemption. On the other hand, gibbons are not classified as “restricted live wildlife” so the importation, possession, and sale of those animals for use as pets and other purposes is generally allowed, subject to certain restrictions in GFC’s Primate regulations.
Under AZ ST § 17-306, it is illegal to import or transport any live wildlife, except as authorized by GFC. Restricted apes may be imported by individuals and facilities holding a GFD-issued Private Game Farm, Wildlife Holding, or Zoo license. Scientific research facilities and other exempt entities may import restricted apes without a GFD license (but are still required to obtain any necessary federal permits). Under GFC’s Primate regulations, it is illegal to import infant gibbons, but there are no state restrictions on the importation of non-infant gibbons, as long as those animals test negative for certain zoonotic diseases prior to entering the state. Also, under the state’s Criminal Code, it is illegal for anyone other than governmental or educational researchers to bring an ape into Arizona that he or she knows is infected with a disease or parasite which could pose a threat to humans.
Arizona has a variety of laws protecting apes from mistreatment and setting minimum standards for the housing and care of those animals. The state’s general anti-cruelty laws require owners of apes to provide their animals with food, water, shelter, and medical attention and prohibit the physical abuse of those animals. In addition, GFC’s Live Wildlife regulations include minimum standards for the housing, care, transport, and maintenance of restricted live wildlife (including restricted apes) possessed by GFD-licensed facilities. Among those standards is a requirement that facilities and animal holding areas be structured to “reasonably promote the psychological well-being of any primate.” Those minimum standards do not apply to gibbons or restricted apes that are possessed without a GFD license. Because research facilities are not required to obtain a GFD license to possess restricted apes, they are also exempt from GFC’s minimum standards of care for those animals. However, research facilities with apes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and must comply with the federal standards of care for primates.
In general, Arizona lacks a comprehensive statewide system for tracking and monitoring captive apes within the state. Although GFD has a licensing requirement for restricted apes, there are several exemptions and those exempt individuals/facilities are not generally required to register or report the presence of restricted apes to state officials. Also, no state permits or licenses are required to import or possess gibbons, nor are the owners of those primates required to register or report the presence of their animals to state officials. As a result, there is no way to accurately gage the number of captive apes currently residing in Arizona.