A small monkey was on the loose in downtown Madison through much of Wednesday, having escaped from its handler after biting a woman in the State Street Brats beer garden in the early morning hours. Soon after information about the animal complaint was issued by Madison police, though, the monkey was captured and placed in quarantine for 10 days. According to an update by MPD spokesman Joel DeSpain, the monkey's owner stated that it is a service animal and was on loan to her friend during the incident.
Primates and their relationship with humans have long been a contentious issue in Madison, ranging from the experiments of UW psychologist Harry Harlow in the '60s and the ongoing work at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center to the efforts of Madison animal activists to establish a National Primate Research Exhibition Hall adjacent to the UW campus.
Monkeys not used for research purposes, however, have a much lower profile in town. They do exist, though, as evidenced by Wednesday's biting incident. In fact, this monkey, identified as "Suri" by the MPD, may be the same animal that was profiled here more than a month ago. Then there is "Mikey," another small monkey that was featured in a promotion at a Madison Mallards game on July 27. Among other activities, the animal took a run around the diamond at the Duck Pond, captured on video and subsequently paired with a separate clip of a small boy running around the bases to create a "Battle of the Species." This short video follows below.
As described in Section 23.49 of Madison General Ordinances, the possession, sale and purchase of exotic animals -- including non-human primates -- is prohibited. There are exceptions for state licensed handlers, zoos, circuses and treating veterinarians, though, and it is unclear where service and performing monkeys would fall within these guidelines.
"Please don't buy a pet monkey!" urges Amy Kerwin, the founder and president of Primates Incorporated, an organization that is working to launch a sanctuary for retired research and pet primates. She discusses promoting her organization at the Atwood Summerfest a couple of weeks ago, and encountering this monkey. Kerwin writes:
One nice woman I met said that a woman was walking around with a real pet monkey (the same woman from yesterday's news), and some people were giving her a hard time, but other people were excited to see a live monkey....
I told the people around me that I was concerned about pet monkeys b/c the instant they bite someone, that means big trouble. Monkeys typically lash out at their owners or someone else when they reach 6-8 years of age and then have to be sent to a sanctuary....
I was not surprised to hear that someone got bit by her adorable capuchin monkey. I hope he is reunited with his owner, as they seemed to have a good social relationship -- and it hurt me to see her in tears like that -- sending her monkey off to quarantine. My advice to everyone: Please, even though it may look like fun, don't get a pet monkey!
Primates Incorporated holds monthly organizational meetings. More information about the group's perspective and plans to construct a sanctuary in southern Wisconsin can be found in its FAQ, and interested supporters can volunteer for and donate to the group.