In Georgia, all species of apes are classified as “inherently dangerous” animals and as a result are among the most heavily regulated animals in the state. Under the Wild Animals Law, it is illegal to possess or sell chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, bonobos, and gibbons for use as pets. While those apes may be imported, possessed, sold, and transported for approved commercial, scientific, or educational purposes, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wild animal license (animal dealers and exhibitors) or permit (research facilities and educational institutions) is required to conduct any of those activities. All applicants for a wild animal license/permit must have approved housing facilities for the animals (which meet the state’s minimum standards) and most applicants must have liability insurance to cover injuries or damages caused by the animal(s).
All individuals and entities wishing to import an ape into Georgia must have a DNR wild animal license or permit and must comply with any federal permit requirements. DNR does not require licensed/permitted entities to obtain additional import permits. However, Georgia’s Department of Agriculture (GDA) requires all exotic animals entering the state to be accompanied by an official certificate of veterinary inspection. Also, all “monkeys” must be uniquely identified by a tattoo or microchip and must test negative to a tuberculosis test within 12 months prior to entry. (It is unclear whether this requirement also applies to apes.) In addition, all importers are required to comply with the minimum standards for the handling, confinement, and transportation of animals in the Wild Animals Law.
Georgia’s Wild Animals Law and the state’s general anti-cruelty laws protect captive apes from abuse and neglect and require those animals to be maintained according to certain minimum standards. The Wild Animals Law sets extensive minimum standards for the housing, care, and treatment of wild animals, which apply to all individuals and entities with apes. All facilities housing apes must be designed, constructed, and maintained in a manner that will protect the animals. All animals must be observed daily and (with the exception of laboratory animals) sick, diseased, injured, or stressed animals must be given veterinary care or humanely euthanized. Also, it is illegal to handle apes (or other animals) in a manner that causes unnecessary discomfort, behavioral stress, or physical harm. In addition, Georgia’s general anti-cruelty laws require owners to provide their animals with necessary food and water and prohibit certain acts of animal abuse. While most states’ anti-cruelty laws, make it a crime to abuse or neglect apes, Georgia’s laws provide additional protection by also making it a crime for any person to violate the state’s minimum standards of care for those animals.
Georgia’s extensive wild animal permit and licensing requirements allow state officials to track and monitor all facilities within the state that import, possess, and sell apes. If GDA’s identification requirements for “monkeys” also apply to apes, the state has a mechanism to track individual apes once they’ve entered the state. DNR does not seem to have any similar individual identification requirements for apes held under a wild animal license or permit. The Wild Animals Law does require all individuals and facilities with apes (and other wild animals) to maintain written records of any transactions involving the importation, purchase, transport, sale, or transfer of those animals, including the names and addresses of all persons involved in those transactions. However, there is no law requiring wild animal license/permit holders to report those transactions or the births and deaths of wild animals to DNR. As a result, DNR can readily identify and monitor all facilities that possess apes within the state, but may have difficulty tracking individual animals as they are imported, exported, bred, bought, sold, or otherwise transferred.