TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Currently, Kansans cannot own lions, tigers, bears, jaguars, cheetahs and mountain lions. Now, a bill has been introduced to lawmakers that would add wolves and nonhuman primates, such as monkeys and lemurs, to the list.
Miss Pita, a capuchin monkey, has lived in Kansas for seven years with her owner, truck driver Kirk Warner.
“She puts a smile on everyone’s face wherever we go,” Warner said. “She plays catch with people and puts on a little show once in a while.”
Miss Pita has accompanied Warner on his rides for years, but now that could be at risk.
“If you own one of these exotic animals, pursuant to the federal law which also is applicable here that you can’t have them running out free,” said Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene), chair of the House committee overseeing HB 2397.
If the bill were to pass, Warner would be forced to give up Miss Pita or leave Kansas for good.
Warner, a monkey owner for almost 30 years, said he would choose to leave his hometown.
“We travel, we’re hardly ever in Kansas, yet we’re the ones worried about it because we want to come home to Kansas,” Warner said. “I’m a Kansan, she’s (Miss Pita) a Kansan, we want to stay Kansans.”
The bill was introduced by the Humane Society of America and PETA, a law they have been trying to legislate for the past six years.
The committee has never held a hearing for the bill, something that will probably happen again this year, Barker said.
“If they introduce a bill and talk to me I’ll consider hearing it, but I have a number of other bills that need to be heard so I don’t anticipate hearing it this year,” Barker said.
The bill states that these animals are “dangerous,” but Warner said this is only the case if their owners do not properly care for them.
“Any animal can bite, any animal can hurt you. It’s a responsibility factor,” Warner said. “She (Miss Pita) does way worse than bite, she judges you. But she’s a good girl.”
Now, it is up to the committee to decide whether to hold a hearing for the bill, and whether to advance it to the House floor.