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Q&A: Can My Neighbor Keep a Pet Chimpanzee at Home?

A homeowner who likes exotic pets graduated from a ferret to a chimpanzee, and a neighbor worries about the danger – and wonders if it’s legal.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My neighbor just brought home a chimpanzee to keep as a pet. He has always tended towards exotic pets, such as his ferrets, but I think this is too dangerous. Is he allowed to keep a pet chimp? – Norm

Answer: No. The type of pets you can keep is regulated by law. Standard household pets, such as dogs and cats, are exempt, as are less common but safe animals such as rabbits, parakeets, and ferrets.

The types of animals on the list will depend on where you live and can easily be found online. Some animals are too dangerous to normally be kept as pets. Examples include elephants, tigers – and your neighbor’s chimpanzee.

The list contains no real surprises and includes most larger predatory species. A permit to keep one of these animals will need to be obtained after the prospective owner proves the necessary skill and experience to keep both the public and animal safe.

There are other animals that can be kept as pets that require a less stringent permitting process. Examples include wolverines, alligators and ocelots. While obtaining a permit is easier for these animals, it is still difficult, and the applicant will need to show the skills and facility for proper care and safety.

To see if your neighbor can keep his chimpanzee, you will need to check your state and local rules, as well as any homeowners association restrictions. If you live in a condo, it is a safe bet the chimp is not allowed there.

After you find out whether the type of animal is allowed in your community, you will need to determine if a permit is required. If it is, the final step is to check and see if your neighbor has the right one. If not, call the wildlife commission or animal welfare.

Even if your neighbor has taken the appropriate steps to have his new pet, you should still reach out to animal welfare if you think that you are in danger or the chimp is not taken care of.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

© 2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.