In Delaware, the importation, possession, and sale of apes are governed by the state’s Endangered Species laws and the Exotic Animal laws. Because of their status as federally listed endangered species, it is illegal to import, possess, or sell gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, gibbons, and wild populations of chimpanzees without a Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) permit. Also, because all species of apes are considered exotic animals, anyone wishing to possess an ape (or other primate) must obtain a Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) exotic animal permit (research facilities may be exempt). DDA issues several different types of exotic animal permits, including: Individual Permits, Accredited Zoo Permits, Exhibitor Permits, and Sales Permits. In addition to the DFW and DDA permit requirements, all possessors of apes are required to comply with DDA’s Exotic Animal rules governing the housing, possession, and display of exotic animals.
Unlike many states, Delaware does not prohibit the possession of apes as pets (assuming the owner has obtained all necessary permits). However, legally acquiring a pet ape in Delaware is challenging because endangered apes (gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, gibbons, and wild populations of chimpanzees) cannot be imported for use as pets. Also, it is illegal for anyone except an Accredited Zoo Permit holder to breed any species of ape, and (pursuant to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums member rules) those facilities cannot transfer primates to private individuals, to the pet trade, or to animal auctions.
All individuals and facilities wishing to import an ape into Delaware must have a DFW endangered species permit (for endangered apes), a DDA exotic animal permit (research facilities may be exempt), and any necessary federal permits. Also, according to DDA’s Animal Health rules, all wild animals entering the state must be accompanied by a valid health certificate. In addition, anyone importing an ape under a DDA exotic animal permit must comply with the agency’s regulations governing the transportation of those animals.
Delaware has a variety of laws governing the housing, care, and treatment of apes, which vary depending on the purpose for which an ape is kept. Pet owners, zoos, and other animal exhibitors are required to house and maintain their animals in compliance with any DFW and DDA permit conditions and DDA’s Exotic Animal regulations. Research facilities appear to be exempt from DDA’s Exotic Animal regulations, but may be subject to DFW’s endangered species permit conditions governing the housing, maintenance and care of endangered apes. In addition to zoos and other animal exhibitors, research facilities with apes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act and must comply with the federal standards of care for primates. Finally, the state’s general anti-cruelty laws require pet owners, zoos, and other exhibitors to provide their apes with proper food, shelter, and veterinary care, and generally prohibit the physical abuse of those animals.
Delaware’s extensive permit and reporting requirements allow state officials to track and monitor virtually all apes entering, exiting, and residing within the state. The only exception may be for captive bred chimpanzees (because they are not included in the state’s “endangered species” permit requirement) that are imported, possessed, bred, and sold by research facilities (because those institutions appear to be exempt from DDA’s exotic animal permit requirements and regulations). Anyone importing or possessing an ape must have a DDA exotic animal permit (except research facilities) and a DFW permit (if the ape is endangered). Also, DDA exotic animal permit holders are subject to some of the nation’s most comprehensive state-level reporting requirements. Under DDA’s Exotic Animal regulations, permit holders must provide an accurate description of every covered exotic animal (including a tattoo, identification tag, microchip and/ or other distinguishing characteristics) and must notify the agency of the birth, death, transfer of ownership, relocation, or escape of each individual animal. In addition, all exhibitors must submit detailed animal performance/display itineraries to the agency. As a result, DDA officials can readily identify, locate, and monitor each individual ape residing within Delaware (except for those animals in research facilities).