Baby monkey in bra, woman goes to court

A woman in Amherst, MA goes to court. “When the woman referred to a daughter, a puzzled official asked where the daughter was and the woman pulled the monkey out of her bra,” writes Scott Marshall for “I can’t understand why the deputy didn’t see her — she was peeking out” from the cleavage of her blouse,” says the woman’s commonwealth attorney, as quoted by Marshall.

Turns out, the woman, whose identity was not revealed, had purchased the tiny baby marmoset from ebay.

    “We call our cats and dogs babies all the time,” said the woman, who is disabled and cares not only for her new baby, but also for three Chihuahuas, a Pomeranian, a crocodile gecko and a garter snake. “When you first get them, they’re just like a preemie,” she said.

Would you buy a preemie? Take him or her away from the parents?

Legitimate reasons to remove a preemie might include:
* you’re a veterinarian and have to remove a baby from the parents because of medical reasons
* or a zookeeper concerned that an infant won’t survive and the baby has to be hand-raised and trained to be tame and that is totally ok for an animal who will live in a modern zoo
* or you’re saving the condor and have to raise a hatchling with a puppet and make sure they don’t imprint on humans; you and your research team learn how to raise a wild species to be wild and able to be released and fend for itself in the wild
* or you’re a peasant in a remote country in the old times, before spay and neuter programs, whose most humane option to keep their female dogs and cats healthy was to cull newborns before their eyes open, and drowning seemed like a better alternative than farm animal overpopulation.

Does it count, if you’re:
* a livestock breeder who removes calves from the mama cows before they ever suckle or bond and raises the calves on formula (made who-knows-where) because somehow raising calves in isolation in hutches is good for the bottom line
* or a chicken breeder who uses incubators and assumes that the chicks will never ever see sunlight or feel grass below their feet or socialize with anyone but declawed and debeaked cagemates

Would you consider it ok to remove infants for profit? How large a profit? Who’s benefiting the most — the farmers, or the distant corporations, or the people getting low-cost meat and forgetting about the high cost of cheap and always forgetting about the ultimate resource, our natural environment, which we abuse?

So under what circumstances exactly would you remove an infant from the parents?

To have a pet?!

Breeding marmosets as pets
Apparently marmoset breeders remove babies from their monkey mothers at three days old “to make better pets,” according to the caption of a teensy marmoset photo by Scott Kinmartin: a baby marmoset on flickr. The photo shows an infant ’bout the size of the thumb of the hand which holds it. The photo appears on an info site about pigmy marmoset, a site which seems geared towards pet owners. “Pygmy Marmoset pets can be difficult to keep, but if done so properly can be extremely rewarding,” quoted from their front page.

Breeders in USA need to have licenses. About breeding pigmy marmosets, they write:

    Breeders remove infants from their parents for hand-rearing when they are between 3 and 10 days of age, so the infants can receive colostrum and milk for the antibodies. Infants are delicate and usually weigh between 28 and 35 grams at birth. […] Babies cannot thermoregulate for the first two months. The father carries the infant the majority of the time, and the female usually only carries the infant to nurse it. The baby normally rides across the parent’s neck and shoulders.

and this:

    Newborns must be fed every two hours around the clock and must be stimulated in the perineal area to urinate and defecate. Babies will start to sleep through the night when they are about two weeks old, weaning occurs about 8 to 10 weeks of age.

What are marmosets?
They sure are cute, whatever they are! Numerous species of small long-tailed South American monkeys are called marmosets. From Encyclopædia Britannica:

    Marmosets have been kept as pets since the early 17th century, but they require knowledgeable care to remain healthy. “True” marmosets breed in monogamous pairs and live in a social organization in which the older young assist in feeding, carrying, and educating the infants.

    Lion tamarins (genus Leontopithecus) are named for their thick manes, and all four species are endangered, three of them critically; one (L. caissara) was first discovered in 1990.

Is it legal to own one in USA?
Twenty US states ban private ownership of exotic animals, including MA, according to a graphic US map found on

    — at least large cats (some of them ban all wild cats), wolves, bears, reptiles, most non-human primates: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming

It’s not clear if “most non-human primate” ban in MA excludes marmosets. It does not appear, from the information in the original article, that this monkey is intended as service animal, raised, then trained, by approved households and professionals.

Should it be legal to own exotics as pets?
As critical as I sound in these posts, I am in favor of private persons owning exotic animals.

Given the destruction of natural habitat all over the planet, some forms of ownership of exotic animals or native wildlife might help with education, preservation of species, or simply increase our interactions with animals.

And what about national parks, aren’t they becoming like large zoos? Is (mis)management by humans inevitable, if we plan for wildlife to survive?

But ripping infants from their parents to raise a pet is not ok. Training techniques on how to interact with animals exist, if only humans would want to learn how to work with mother and babies of the species they want as pets.

However, all great training techniques go along with appropriate management .. personally, as much as I would love to own this or that animal, as much as I would love to rescue one more animal, I simply cannot afford to do so, by a huge margin. It’s not just money, it’s the time and commitment but yes, the money to have appropriate large natural cages and employees to help caretake and so on. I also know that many of us who love animals barely manage squeezing time to spend with our dogs and horses. Keeping our domestic pets or horses in any semblance of a natural environment, like pasture with a herd for the equines, is often a challenge. Even cat owners get new responsibilities. Given the overpopulation of cats (and humans) crowding out natural habitat, new data points towards restraining of cats in large cages becoming the responsible thing to do (to save the birds.)

A primate, small or large, needs intellectual and physical stimulation just like a human would. With the exception of service animals, I would not want to own any exotic species (or domestic for that matter) if I could not offer a stimulating non-boring environment even when I am not around 24/7.

What conditions would it take to make it legal and humane and safe to own exotics?
I am in the process of gathering information and opinions on this matter and will report at a later time. For now, I’ll just start with my personal list of conditions in which I think private ownership of non-domestic animals could be ok and ought to be legal.

Private ownership of exotics and wildlife should be legal, with conditions.
Owners have to prove that they have:
1) acquired training and management skills from reputable sources. Short sentence, long process, educating oneself to be an animal trainer can be a life-long process, or least a few years of study, akin to college and grad school, or long-term apprentiships.

2) have money and space to maintain appropriate, species-specific, large, enriched, etc enclosures with super-safe precautions against escapes or random humans reaching in for any reason, play or vandalism.

Example: if a rich eccentric is crazy enough to want to eat, sleep, live with adult chimpanzees, that person should be required to have a bomb-proof cage with double-entrances around their whole compound.

Of course if any sane individual goes through nr.1) ie education in how to train and manage a species, they might make different choices in how to help, or be close to, say, chimps; or mountain lions, tigers, or any other species cute as infants but growing into not-so-cute intelligent, active adults.

3) keep the pets in some kind of approximation of their natural social orders. I realize that many domestic animals we love as pets and companions are kept in the “golden cage” and to me, the golden cages represent imprisonment, not friendship, nor a good arrangement for working animals. Exceptions for working animals traveling to shows or exhibits only reinforce such a requirement, do not negate it. In case of our domestics, as much as I’d like all horses to live on hundreds of acres, I also think it’s totally ok for showhorses to travel and live in tiny boxstalls while going to the olympics or such.

Why .. some horses love to work. I know this from experience. I also know one exotic animal trainer personally who can test and prove what an animal likes. She asks them, she does not need to merely assume based on ambiguous behavioral clues.

With exotics, it might be prohibitive to keep them in any sort of remotely natural social environment. Visit your modern zoo! Volunteer for your local wildlife rescue. Learn how to love another species.

4) welcome service animals, species other than dogs might be suitable as well. Animals and people benefit if conditions are met, a subject for a different post because of the special education and training that goes into our relation with service animals.

5) animal rights members and donors: ask yourself if your actions truly benefit animal species or individual animals. There is no wilderness left on Earth .. that is a fact. Animal lovers ought to jump for joy when private wealthy individuals want to acquire and care for a particular species. Employing animals for work or show? Great .. with strict conditions, not unlike labor laws for humans. Anyone wants to have a private zoo .. why not .. with strict conditions. And yes, raising seven chicken in a foot-wide cage is not humane, and is something all meat-eaters need to consider before the next purchase.

6) in terms of personal freedom versus restrictive laws and all kinds of new laws piling on us .. I don’t know where the balance is, but all societies make those choices all the time. We need our scientists to provide and update our factual data on what is the best choice for humans who love animals, use animals, the animals themselves and for the environment.

I dislike the idea of new laws. I am totally against outrageous intrusions in the privacy of animal owners, like the absurd requirements of the (thankfully, for now defunct) NAIS, that incredibly intrusive law which attempted to track every pet /animal. I distrust government intrusion and those laws which really don’t understand what they are legislating and make it more difficult to do the right thing by the animals in our care. But we really have no choice, abuse abounds. We need discussions and education and research so we can make informed decision– and yes, *sigh,* new laws (scrape bad ones before adding new ones.)

Monkey in woman’s bra makes waves at Amherst courthouse, (video at link)
by Scott Marshall, March 10, 2011, Amherst New Era-Progress

USA: Map, states laws regarding possession of exotic animals by private owners:”

About marmosets, from Encyclopædia Britannica”

A marmoset site oriented towards pet ownership:

A flickr photo of thumb-sized infant pigmy marmoset:


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