Government introduces new legislation for keeping primates as pets

3 January 2024


Keeping primates as pets will be prohibited under new legislation introduced by the Government (14th December 2023) unless private keepers can adhere to a licensing scheme which sets strict rules to ensure that only those keepers who can provide the highest welfare standards will be able to keep primates, improving the welfare of thousands of animals.

Primates have complex welfare and social needs and it is estimated that up to 5,000 are kept as pets in the UK. Under the changes, introduced via secondary legislation under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, it will no longer be possible to keep primates in domestic settings as household pets in environments that fail to provide for their needs.

Licensing is expected to come into force in 2026, subject to parliamentary processes, with existing keepers having two years from the statutory instrument being approved to reach compliance with the licensing conditions.

All private primate keepers will be required to hold a licence, issued by their local authority. Licences will be valid for a maximum of three years, with at least one inspection per licensing period. Licence holders must undergo re-assessment to renew their permission to keep these animals. Failure to comply with the law could result in an unlimited fine or removal of the primate. Guidance will be provided to local authorities on how to measure the new standards at inspection to ensure the highest level of welfare is being maintained.

The new legislation builds on the Government’s consultation on the introduction of the licensing regime as well as primate-keeping welfare standards. BSAVA contributed to the consultation and is pleased to see Government’s commitment to progressing improvements that support primate welfare.