Under Section 26-40a of Connecticut’s Fisheries and Game Law, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans are classified as “potentially dangerous animals” which may not be possessed by the general public. All federally licensed exhibitors and registered research facilities are exempt from the possession ban; however most private exhibitors (including circuses, wild animal parks, sanctuaries, and performing animal acts) are required to have a Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permit to possess those apes. Gibbons are not classified as “potentially dangerous animals,” so it is legal for the general public to possess those animals with a DEP permit. Research facilities and certain exhibitors (zoos, nature centers, municipal parks and museums) are exempt from the state’s permit requirements for gibbons. Because all apes are federally protected endangered or threatened species, many activities involving those animals are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and also require a federal permit.
The Department of Environmental Protection regulates the importation of all wild animals, including apes. Under DEP’s regulations, it is illegal for the general public to import all “potentially dangerous” apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans); research facilities and certain exhibitors (including zoos, nature centers, municipal parks, and museums) are exempt from the import ban. Those facilities are not required to obtain state permits to import potentially dangerous apes, but they must comply with federal permit requirements for the interstate transport of endangered and threatened species. Because gibbons are not considered potentially dangerous animals, they may be imported by the general public with a DEP permit and any necessary federal permits. Research facilities and certain exhibitors (zoos, nature centers, municipal parks, and museums) are exempt from the state’s import permit requirement for gibbons.
Connecticut has no statutes or regulations that establish minimum standards of care for captive apes, although DEP regulations do state that captive “quadrupeds” must be cared for and held in pens according to specifications established by the agency. Under the state’s anti-cruelty laws, it is illegal to house an ape in a manner that results in that animal injuring himself or another animal. Also under the same laws, all captive apes must be given proper care, food, water, wholesome air, and protection from the elements. Because all research facilities and exhibitors with apes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, those facilities must comply with the federal standards for the housing, care, and maintenance of primates. Finally, the state’s anti-cruelty laws prohibit the physical abuse of apes and make it a crime to harass or worry an ape (or other animal) in order to make that animal perform for amusement or exhibition.
Although the state does have an extensive permit program for the importation and possession of wild animals, many possessors of apes are exempt from the state’s permit requirements. Because research facilities, zoos, municipal parks, nature centers, and museums are not required to obtain a DEP permit or otherwise register their animals with state or local authorities, the state has no way to effectively monitor the apes that are imported, possessed, bred, or sold by those facilities. Without a comprehensive permit or registration program, it is difficult to gage the actual number of apes that reside within Connecticut.