Is it legal to own a monkey in the UK?

Currently (see base of page), provided you have a licence from your local authority as specified by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 it is legal to own a monkey in the UK. You won’t need a licence for all species of monkey as specified under the schedule to The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 (Modification) (No.2) Order 2007. The relevant section of that schedule is set out below. You can see that you don’t need a licence for night monkeys also known as owl monkeys, titi monkeys and squirrel monkeys. You will require a licence for new-world monkeys and old-world monkeys.

Please note that this page is about the legal right or otherwise to own a monkey in the UK. I do not touch on the effectiveness of the law and whether it is enforced properly. Apparently, there are many people keeping pet monkeys who do not have a licence.

Tiktoker and pet monkey are the best of friends
Tiktoker and pet monkey are the best of friends. Picture: TikTok.


NOTE: See section 7(5) of this Act for the effect of the second column of this Schedule

Scientific name of kindCommon name or names

Family Cebidae:

All species except those of the genera Aotus, Callicebus and Saimiri.

New-world monkeys (including capuchin, howler, saki, uacari, spider and woolly monkeys).

Night monkeys (also known as owl monkeys), titi monkeys and squirrel monkeys are excepted.

Family Cercopithecidae: All species.Old-world monkeys (including baboons, the drill, colobus monkeys, the gelada, guenons, langurs, leaf monkeys, macaques, the mandrill, mangabeys, the patas and proboscis monkeys and the talapoin).

Inspection, fee and conditions

You will have to satisfy inspection requirements to obtain a licence. That means a veterinarian or some other specialist coming around to your home to check that you have the facilities necessary to look after a monkey properly. There may be conditions and there maybe subsequent inspections with modified conditions.

The fee for a licence will vary between about £100 to about £1000 depending upon where you live (2022). A licence lasts for one year normally and therefore has to be renewed. They run to December 31, normally as I recall. And if you have a licence for part of the year you will pay the full licence fee for the entire year.

It is rather surprising that you can only monkey in the UK without a licence in respect of those species specified. Although things may change. My gut feeling is that this is a law which is now out of date.

Monkeys are not suitable as pets

The RSPCA say that primates don’t make good pets. For a start off they can live for 20-40 years. This makes for a very serious long-term caregiving responsibility. This will be life changing. There are very few people with the wherewithal, funding, lifestyle and facilities to do a good job of looking after a monkey as a companion. But it can work out well in exceptional cases.

In addition, the RSPCA state that they are potentially dangerous despite looking cute. They can become aggressive and there have been cases of people being attacked by primates. They are also very strong. I can remember a woman in America who was attacked by a primate who took her arm off. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds.

Monkeys will need stimulation and space. You can’t just keep them in the home. They scent mark like domestic cats which won’t be nice around the home. They require a specialist diet. The RSPCA say that some people are unaware of this and their primate ends up with metabolic bone disease a.k.a. rickets.

And you need to spend quite a bit of money on veterinary fees because they need specialist veterinary treatment. And it’s hard to find veterinarians with these skills.

You might find to that monkeys are more able to transmit zoonotic diseases to their owner. Cast your mind back to Covid. This is a zoonotic disease which is one transmitted from animal to person.

Monkeys need companionship. It appears that sometimes young monkeys are removed from their mothers too early which causes them extreme suffering. It is not uncommon for an unscrupulous people to take young offspring from their mothers of any species for sale in the West. This is cruel.

And primates are highly social animals. Keeping them alone is inhumane. Human company is not a replacement for primate company.

I’ve painted a rather negative picture you might think but I would say that it is a realistic picture.


The Born Free Foundation tells us that an estimated 5000 primates are kept as pets in the UK.

Proposal to ban monkeys as pets in the UK

On December 12, 2020, the British government unveiled plans to ban the keeping of primates as pets. At that time, they had started an eight-week consultation period. It was in their manifesto to ban the ownership of primates such as capuchins, lemurs and squirrel monkeys.

This attitude is borne out of the fact that many people think that monkeys should not be pets for a whole range of reasons, some of which I have touched on above. The RSPCA has called for a complete ban. My research on the Internet indicates that the proposals have not yet come to fruition. If and when they do, under this Parliament, I will update this page.

Below are some more pages on monkeys.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

At heart this site is about ANTHROPOCENTRISM meaning a human-centric world.

Post Category: Monkeys