In the state of North Dakota, there is no specific law that contains an outright ban on ownership of great apes. However, there are laws that address private possession of great apes, including very specific importation and housing requirements. Generally, if a person obtains the correct license, he or she can keep an ape as a pet, an exhibitor, a zoo, or for any other non-prohibited purpose.
The state board of animal health has categorized great apes as nontraditional livestock. NDAC 48-12-01.1-02. In order to possess nontraditional livestock, including a great ape, a private owner must first obtain a license. Then once an individual has a great ape, there are regulatory standards the individual must meet in order to renew their license and retain possession of the great ape. NDAC 48-12-02.1-02.
Finally, great apes are generally protected from intentional abuse and neglect under the state’s anti-cruelty law. Great apes receive very limited protections under Montana’s endangered species law.
II. How Different Uses of Great Apes are Affected by Law
A. Private Possession of Great Apes
Chapter 36 of North Dakota law governs nontraditional livestock, including great apes. Under § 36-01-08, North Dakota law provides that the state board of animal health may require a license for nontraditional livestock in the state. § 36-01-00.1 defines “nontraditional livestock” as “any wildlife held in a cage, fence, enclosure, or other manmade means of confinement that limits its movement within definite boundaries or an animal that is physically altered to limit movement and facilitate capture.” Additionally, § 36-01-08.4 mandates that the board of animal health establish rules governing the keeping of a primate.
To privately possess a great ape in North Dakota, an individual must obtain then maintain a “nontraditional livestock licensure” from the state board of animal health. NDAC 48-12-01.1-02. Specifically, state regulations classify all primates as “category 3 nontraditional livestock,” which it further defines as “those species determined by the board to pose special concerns, including species which are inherently dangerous or environmentally hazardous.” Owners of category 3 species as defined above “must maintain nontraditional livestock licensure and are subject to additional housing and care requirements.” This means that in order to maintain the license, individuals must comply with the standards set forth by the state board of animal health. These regulations include minimum space requirements based up on the captive animal’s weight in a primary enclosure that is separate from the living areas of human occupants. For more on these standards, see Section III (A).
B. Possession by Roadside and Traditional Zoos (Class C USDA Licensees)
Roadside and traditional zoos are included in chapter 48 of the North Dakota code. The law requires all zoos, research facilities, and education facilities to meet the requirements set forth for nontraditional livestock. ND ST 48-12-01.1-14. Because great apes are classified as a category 3 species of nontraditional livestock, individuals who possess great apes in a zoo are required to obtain and maintain a nontraditional livestock licensure.
In addition, all federal rules and regulations pertaining to zoos apply to those in North Dakota. Under federal law, in order to have a great ape in a roadside or traditional zoo, individuals must possess a USDA Class C license.
C. Commercial Exhibitors
Commercial exhibitors are included in the chapter of the North Dakota code that addresses zoos, research facilities, and education facilities. In order to display a great ape in North Dakota, commercial exhibitors must possess a nontraditional livestock license. In addition, all applicable federal laws and regulations regarding animal sanctuaries apply to those in North Dakota.
North Dakota does not have a specific law that addresses great ape sanctuaries. However, because great apes are classified as a category 3 species of nontraditional livestock, individuals are still required to obtain and maintain a nontraditional livestock licensure. In addition, all applicable federal laws and regulations regarding animal sanctuaries apply to those in North Dakota.
E. Scientific Testing and Research Facilities
Research facilities are included in chapter 48 of the North Dakota code. The law requires all zoos, research facilities, and education facilities to meet the requirements set forth for nontraditional livestock. ND ST 48-12-01.1-14. Because great apes are classified as a category 3 species of nontraditional livestock, individuals who use great apes at a research facility are required to obtain and maintain a nontraditional livestock licensure. North Dakota’s anti-cruelty law exempts scientific testing. ND ST 36-21.1-01.5(c).
In addition, all applicable federal laws and regulations for research facilities apply in the state. Great apes are not normally used in chemical testing, but in a few states they are still part of scientific research. In those states, activity related to scientific research would be exempt from punishment under state anti-cruelty laws.
III. State Laws Affecting Great Apes in North Dakota
A. Importation, Introduction, and Transplantation of Wildlife
Chapter 36 of the North Dakota code on Livestock includes laws on primates, which include great apes. State law mandates that the state board of animal health adopt rules addressing the keeping of primates. ND ST 36-01-08.4. These regulations cover topics that include licensure fees, space requirements per caged animal, standards of care requirements, how to renew a license, and penalties for violating regulations set by the state board.
1. Which Great Apes are Covered
North Dakota regulations define "primate" broadly, stating only the term “primate” does “not include a human being.” NDAC 48-12-02.1-01. Great apes are thus included in all state laws that apply to primates. Primates are covered by the state code’s chapter on nontraditional livestock, which classifies them as category 3 nontraditional livestock.
2. License and Importation Requirements
North Dakota has very specific requirements that an individual must meet in order to receive and maintain a livestock license. These include a host of housing and space requirements, outlined below, as well as proof that the great ape is healthy. NDAC 48-12-02.1-01. Under the regulations currently in place, the maximum fee the state can charge for a nontraditional livestock license is fifteen dollars. NDAC 36-01-08.1.
In order to import a great ape, an individual must obtain a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian that says the animal tested negatively for certain medical conditions and diseases. NDAC 48-12-01.1-04. To maintain possession of a primate after importation, an individual must renew the license. Renewal requires proof that the great ape has tested negatively for tuberculosis. NDAC 48-12-02.1-01.
3. Standards of Care
North Dakota’s chapter on nontraditional livestock outlines housing and space requirements for primates, which includes great apes. See ND ADC 48-12-02.1-01. The statute specifically incorporates the federal statute regarding housing requirements for primates into the state law that applies to great apes in North Dakota. 9 C.F.R. 3.75. Space requirements per great ape are fairly specific. For example, the minimum amount of space required per great ape per cage is determined by the great ape’s height and weight. Additional requirements are in place for outdoor enclosures.
The penalties for violating any regulation governing the importation of nontraditional livestock, including great apes, include both civil fines and the exportation or destruction of the animal. ND ADC 48-12-01.1-03. In the event of a violation, the state board of animal health has the discretion to order that the animal be returned to its state of origin or slaughtered.
B. Nongame and Endangered Species Act
Great apes in North Dakota are entitled to protections under both the federal Endangered Species Act and the state statute located in Chapter 20 of the code on Game, Fish, Predators, and Boating. ND ST 20.1-01.02. The state statute defines endangered species as “any species whose prospects of survival or recruitment within the state are in jeopardy” due to a number of factors then listed. The term also explicitly includes any species classified as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Because great apes are listed by the federal government as endangered, they should be entitled to additional protections in North Dakota. However, the majority of the provisions under the state law limit the ability to hunt endangered species. Because there are no great apes currently being hunted, the endangered species law does not directly affect great apes in the state of North Dakota.
C. Cruelty to Animals
Primates are not specifically mentioned in any of North Dakota’s anti-cruelty laws. However, the current anti-cruelty statute in the state is broad and includes “any animal.” ND ST 36-21.1-01. The state anti-cruelty statute, like the other statutes that affect great apes, is located within the state code’s chapter on livestock.
The anti-cruelty statute prohibits the torture, cruel beating, neglect, maiming or killing of any animal. ND ST 36-21.1-02. There are also provisions making it a crime to cruelly transport, poison, or abandon an animal.
In order to possess a great ape in North Dakota, an individual must obtain a nontraditional livestock license. The state requires that individuals meet very specific housing and health requirements. In addition, great apes are included in the broader category of primates. Statutes and regulations that apply to primates can be found under the chapters of the North Dakota code that address nontraditional livestock.