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Government publish specialist primate licence consultation response Published Date: 15/12/2023

The consultation sought views on proposals for the introduction of a specialist licence for private primate keepers in England, through regulations made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (AWA).

In its response, the Government confirmed that it will introduce new standards and a licensing scheme for those people keeping primates outside of a zoo setting in England.  It said:

"The specialist private primate keeping welfare standards will not apply to primates which are kept by a person holding a zoo licence under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 or a Home Office scientific procedures licence under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) because separate standards already exist for this. It will, however, apply to all primates which are currently being licensed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and/or the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. Anyone keeping a primate or proposing to keep a primate will need a specialist licence unless they have a zoo or ASPA licence.

"The introduction of this new licensing scheme for private primate keepers will provide a consistent level of welfare akin to zoo-level standards. Guidance will be provided to local authorities on how to measure these standards at inspection and the setting of licence fees to ensure that fees are relatively consistent nationally."

Analysis of responses

The responses to this consultation "show a demonstrable strength of feeling" around the need for health and welfare concerns to be covered in the licensing scheme as well as the guidance to support it. The responses also highlight the consensus that the welfare standards need to be comprehensive, clear and concise enough for private primate keepers to follow and local authority enforcers to inspect against. The summary of responses highlights that whilst there is some debate over whether the standards or the licensing regime would meet all the species-specific welfare needs of primates kept as pets, they were felt to go much further than no regime at all. Whilst many respondents would like to see an outright ban on primates being kept and sold as pets, they commented that they recognised that the standards and licensing scheme would help underpin a scheme promoting higher welfare standard for captive primates in England.

Some respondents considered the guidance to be overly detailed and difficult to enforce. Others expressed a wish to see sufficient detail in the licensing regime to take account of species-specific welfare requirements. Some responses also pointed out that scientific advances in our understanding of primate welfare are changing rapidly. Alterations can be made to guidance more readily and speedily than legislation. We are therefore proposing to include higher level welfare requirements in the legislation to ensure that the licensing regime is based on effective standards and is enforceable. In addition, we intend to produce more detailed guidance including species-specific approaches. This consequently allows for a more pragmatic, flexible and clear approach to the licensing regime. This guidance will be published shortly.