In 2007, Iowa passed the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWA) which classifies all Great Apes as “dangerous wild animals” and restricts the purposes for which they may be imported or possessed. In general, it is illegal to keep apes unless they were possessed on July 1, 2007 and are registered and maintained according to DWA’s requirements. This ban primarily affects private pet owners and those who keep apes for entertainment, breeding, and certain commercial purposes. Others, including wildlife sanctuaries, circuses, research facilities, and accredited zoos are exempt from the DWA and there are no state permit requirements for the possession or sale of apes by those entities.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s (IDALS) Animal Industry Bureau regulates the importation of certain animals, including apes. Individuals bringing apes into Iowa are not required to have a state import permit, however federal permits may be required. Basically, all apes entering the state must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection and those animals over four months of age must test negative for tuberculosis within 30 days prior to entry.
Aside from research facilities, which are regulated by IDALS under the Care of Animals in Commercial Establishments Act, Iowa has no laws establishing minimum standards for the housing, maintenance, and care of apes. Circuses, zoos, research facilities, and certain wildlife sanctuaries with apes are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, and must comply with the federal minimum standards of care for primates. Also, the state’s general anti-cruelty laws prohibit certain acts of cruelty against apes (and other animals) and require keepers give their animals food and water. An individual who has been convicted of animal cruelty under state or local laws is not eligible to keep an ape under DWA’s exemption for dangerous wild animals possessed on July 1, 2007.
Because there are no state importation or possession permit requirements for apes, Iowa lacks any comprehensive system to track and monitor individuals apes entering or residing in the state. Individuals who possessed apes on July 1, 2007 are required to microchip and register their animals with IDALS and must report changes in animal location or ownership to that agency. However, the identification, registration, and reporting requirements do not extend to any of the several facilities that are exempt from the DWA, including: wildlife sanctuaries, certain zoos, circuses, and research facilities. As a result, state officials have no way of identifying, locating, or monitoring apes that are imported, possessed, bred, or sold by those entities.