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Detailed Discussion of Vermont Great Ape Laws



Elizabeth Love Marcero


Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date:
2013
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law

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I. Introduction

 

While the state of Vermont does not prohibit the possession of great apes, the law does contain detailed requirements for possessors. Like other states, Vermont does not define great apes as “endangered” under its own endangered species law (10 V.S.A. § 5401 – 10). Instead, it covers great apes by reference to federal law. Vermont prohibits the taking, possession, or transport of such species unless an exception applies. If a person is able to obtain a permit for the possession of great apes, then Vermont’s wild animal importation law applies (10 V.S.A. § 4709), and permitees must follow the caging and care requirements for non-human primates detailed in state regulation (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.75 – 88).

 

Great apes are also covered under the state’s anti-cruelty law (13 V.S.A. §§ 351 – 400). However, the law contains several exempt categories, including scientific research and veterinary medical or surgical procedures.

 

II. How Different Uses of Great Apes are Affected by Law

 

While Vermont does not have a law that directly prohibits the possession of great apes, most possession is effectively prohibited under the state's Endangered Species Act. Those who can obtain a permit to possess great apes must adhere to an extensive list of caging and care requirements specific to non-human primates. Different activities are addressed by various state laws and regulations. The law regulates the possession of great apes depending on whether a person possesses an ape privately (e.g., as a “pet”), at a zoo, as a sanctuary, or for scientific research purposes. This section examines the laws by those uses.

 

A. Private Possession of Great Apes

 

Since Vermont’s Endangered Species Act prohibits the possession of federally listed endangered species, most private users would be prohibited from possessing great apes (10 V.S.A. § 5403). However, the law does allow the secretary to create some exceptions for certain purposes, including scientific purposes, enhancing the propagation or survival of a species, economic hardship, zoological exhibition, educational purposes or other special purposes consistent with the purposes of the federal Endangered Species Act (10 V.S.A. § 5408).

 

State law and regulation still contains specific requirements for those who are able to obtain a permit for the possession of great apes. Vermont law provides that a person may not bring into the state or possess any live wild bird or animal of any kind, unless the person obtains a permit from the commissioner (10 V.S.A. § 4709). Applicants are required to pay a permit fee of $100. Permits may be granted pursuant to regulations prescribed by the board and after investigation and inspection by the commissioner.

 

Interestingly, Vermont has enacted an extensive list of regulations pertaining to the keeping of non-human primates. For more on these standards of caging and care, see section III(A)(3) below.

 

B. Possession by Zoos

 

Since Vermont’s Endangered Species Act prohibits the possession of federally listed endangered species, most commercial users would be prohibited from possessing great apes (10 V.S.A. § 5403). However, the law does allow the secretary to create some exceptions for certain purposes, including zoological exhibition (10 V.S.A. § 5408).

 

State law and regulation still contains specific requirements for those who are able to obtain a permit for the possession of great apes. Vermont’s importation law requires all possessors of live wild birds or animals to obtain a permit from the commissioner (10 V.S.A. § 4709). Applicants are required to pay a permit fee of $100. Zoos are also subject to the caging and care requirements for great apes that are set forth in the regulations pertaining to non-human primates (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.75 – 88). For more, see section III(A)(3) below.

 

C. Sanctuaries

 

Like zoos, sanctuaries appear to be exempt from the state’s Endangered Species Law, which lists “enhancing the propagation or survival of a species” as a possible exemption under the act (10 V.S.A. § 5408). If a sanctuary was able to obtain a permit for the possession of great apes, it would then be subject to the state’s wild animal importation law and regulation requirements.

 

D. Scientific Testing and Research Facilities

 

Similar to zoos and sanctuaries, the possession of great apes by scientific testing and research facilities is controlled by the state’s wild animal importation law and regulations.

 

“Scientific purposes” is listed as a possible exception from the requirements of the state’s Endangered Species Law (10 V.S.A. § 5408). Scientific research is also exempt from Vermont’s anti-cruelty law provisions (13 V.S.A. § 351b). While great apes are not normally used in chemical testing, in a few states they are still part of scientific research that would be exempt under state anti-cruelty laws.

 

III. State Laws Affecting Great Apes in Vermont

 

Vermont addresses the use and possession of great apes through several avenues in its laws. While Vermont does not have a law that directly prohibits the possession of great apes, most possession is effectively prohibited under the state's Endangered Species Act. Those exempted from the act are required to obtain a permit, as well as follow caging and care requirements particular to non-human primates. Finally, great apes are protected from intentional and aggravated cruelty under the state’s anti-cruelty provision.

 

A. Endangered Species Law (10 V.S.A. § 5401 – 10)

 

As listed species on the federal list of endangered and threatened species, most great apes are protected under Vermont’s Endangered Species Act. This act prohibits the taking, possession, or transport of such species.

 

1. Which Great Apes are Covered?

 

All great apes are covered by the statute’s reference to the federal Endangered Species Act. The law specifically defines endangered species to include species “determined to be an ‘endangered species’ under the federal Endangered Species Act.” In addition, threatened species are defined under the act to include species “determined to be a ‘threatened species’ under the federal Endangered Species Act.”

 

2. What is Prohibited?

 

Under section 5403, it is unlawful to take, possess, or transport wildlife or plants that are members of an endangered or threatened species. The law does permit the secretary, after obtaining advice from the endangered species committee, to allow exceptions for certain purposes (10 V.S.A. § 5408). The possible exceptions include scientific purposes, enhancing the propagation or survival of a species, economic hardship, zoological exhibition, educational purposes or other special purposes consistent with the purposes of the federal Endangered Species Act.

 

3. Standards for Great Apes Kept under Vermont’s Endangered Species Law

 

This section does not deal with housing conditions. There are also no state administrative regulations concerning the care and keeping of captive endangered species. In most of cases where an animal is held under an exception to the state law, a federal permit will be required and housing issues are addressed under the federal regulations. [See 9 C.F.R. 3.75 – 3.92 (housing, feeding and related care for non-human primates); 42 C.F.R. 9.4 & 9.6 (relating to chimpanzees in sanctuaries); 64 Fed Reg 38145 (relating to psychological well-being of non-human primates held by dealers, exhibitors and research facilities)].

 

4. Penalties

 

Violation of this section with regard to an endangered species results in a fine of not more than $1,000. For subsequent convictions the fine shall be not less than $500 but not more than $1,000. Violation of this section with regard to a threatened species results in a fine of not more than $500. For subsequent convictions the fine shall be not less than $250 but not more than $500. (10 V.S.A. § 5403).

 

B. Importation, Introduction, and Transplantation of Wildlife Law (10 V.S.A. § 4709; VT Admin Code §§ 2-4-300:1.1 – 2-4-300:3.88)

 

While Vermont does not completely prohibit possession of great apes, the state’s wildlife importation law and regulations contain extensive requirements for the importation and possession of great apes.

 

1. Which Great Apes are Covered?

 

Although Vermont’s wildlife importation law does not specifically refer to primates, it addresses the importation and possession of “any live wild bird or animal of any kind” (10 V.S.A. § 4709). Contrastingly, state regulation refers directly to non-human primates, defining a non-human primate as “any non-human member of the highest order of mammals including prosimians, monkeys and apes” (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:1.1).

 

2. What is Prohibited?

 

Vermont law states that a person may not bring into the state or possess any live wild bird or animal of any kind, unless the person obtains a permit from the commissioner (10 V.S.A. § 4709). Permits may be granted pursuant to regulations prescribed by the board and after investigation and inspection by the commissioner.

 

Vermont’s regulations state that each licensee shall comply with the standards for the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of animals (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:2.3). Licensees must also allow Division representatives to examine and make copies of their records, as well as inspect their property and animals to enforce the provisions of the Act, regulations, or standards (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:2.5).

 

3. Standards for Keeping Exotic Wildlife under the Law

 

Surprisingly, Vermont’s regulations contain extensive requirements for the caging and care of great apes (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.75 – 88). In general, the housing facilities for non-human primates must be structurally sound and in good repair (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.75). Primary enclosures shall be constructed and maintained to provide sufficient space for each nonhuman primate to make normal postural adjustments with adequate freedom of movement (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.78). Each primate must be provided with a minimal floor space equal to an area that is at least three times the area occupied by the primate when standing on four feet. Animals must be housed in compatible groups if kept in the same enclosure, and must not be housed with animal species other than non-human primates (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.83).

 

Indoor facilities for non-human primates must be sufficiently heated, with the ambient temperature not to fall below 50°F (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.76). Indoor housing must also be adequately ventilated, with auxiliary ventilation required if the ambient temperature is 85°F or higher. For outdoor enclosures, non-human primates must be given adequate shelter from sunlight, rain, snow, and cold weather (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.77).

 

Primates are to be fed once a day, and given potable water at least twice daily (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.79 – 80). All feeding and watering receptacles are to be kept clean, and enclosures are to be sanitized at least once every two weeks. (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.81). The facility must utilize a sufficient number of employees to maintain the standards described in these regulations (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.82). Each primate will be observed daily, and sick or diseased, injured, lame, or blind non-human primates shall be provided with veterinary care or humanely disposed of (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.84).

 

Finally, the regulations contain requirements for the transport of non-human primates. The interior of the animal cargo space must be kept clean, and animals must be provided with fresh air during transport (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.85). The ambient temperature shall not be allowed to exceed 85°F for more than 4 hours continuously nor allowed to fall below 45°F (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.86). Each animal must have sufficient space to turn and make postural adjustments, and not more than 10 non-human primates shall be transported in the same primary enclosure. If non-human primates are transported for more than 12 hours, they must be given potable water at least once in each 12 hour period, and must be fed at least once in each 24 hour period (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.87). The responsibility to provide or obtain adequate care for the animals in the case of an emergency rests with the attendant or driver (VT Admin Code 2-4-300:3.88).

 

4. Penalties

 

Applicants for a permit to import or possess wildlife are required to pay a permit fee of $100. (10 V.S.A. § 4709).

 

C. Cruelty to Animals (13 V.S.A. §§ 351 – 400)

 

Vermont’s anti-cruelty law is generally applicable to great apes. The statute provides that a person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if the person intentionally kills or attempts to kill “any animal” belonging to another person without first obtaining legal authority or consent of the owner (13 V.S.A. § 352). A person also commits cruelty to animals if he or she overworks, overloads, tortures, torments, abandons, administers poison to, cruelly beats or mutilates an animal, or exposes a poison with intent that it be taken by an animal. This section prohibits tying, tethering, or restraining an animal in a manner that is inhumane or detrimental to the animal’s welfare. Finally, this section prohibits depriving an animal which a person owns, possesses, or acts as an agent for, of adequate food, water, shelter, rest, sanitation, or necessary medical attention, or transporting an animal in overcrowded vehicles. The statute defines “animal” to mean “all living sentient creatures, not human beings” (13 V.S.A. § 351). Cruelty to animals is punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year or a fine of not more than $2,000, or both. Subsequent convictions are punishable by not more than two years in prison or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both (13 V.S.A. § 353).

 

The state’s anti-cruelty law also contains a section prohibiting aggravated cruelty to animals. A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals if he or she kills an animal by intentionally causing the animal undue pain or suffering, or if he or she intentionally, maliciously, and without just cause tortures, mutilates, or cruelly beats an animal (13 V.S.A. § 352a). Aggravated cruelty to animals is punishable by imprisonment of not more than three years or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. Subsequent convictions are punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years or a fine of not more than $7,500, or both (13 V.S.A. § 353).

 

The statute contains several exceptions, including scientific research and veterinary medical or surgical procedures (13 V.S.A. § 351b).

 

IV. Conclusion

 

While state law does not prohibit the possession of great apes, most possession is effectively prohibited under the state's Endangered Species Act. Remarkably, state regulations contain detailed standards of caging and care specific to the needs of non-human primates. However, enforcement and inspection provisions are still quite vague. As is true with many states, there is not an overall law that directly addresses the possession of apes or the specific needs of apes in captivity.

 

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