Wayne Pacelle, the head of the Humane Society of the United States, says several factors contributed to the chimpanzee attack of a woman in Connecticut on Monday, including Sen. Tom Coburn’s blocking of a bill last year to ban the interstate transport of monkeys and chimpanzees for the pet trade. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly, but it was among the dozens of bills that Coburn placed a “hold” on.
“Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and a few other anti-animal lawmakers made fun of this attempt to stop the abuse of primates in the pet trade and to protect people and communities, but fortunately, their efforts fell short in the House. But in the Senate, despite repeated efforts by bill co-authors Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and David Vitter (R-La.) to get the legislation over the finish line and sent to President Bush for his signature, Sen.Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) blocked consideration of the bill,” Pacelle wrote today.
“But for Coburn, a medical doctor, we’d now have a federal law banning the interstate transport of dangerous primates as pets.”
John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn, R-Muskogee, said, “People who keep 200-pound chimpanzees as pets have issues that cannot be resolved by any act of Congress. That said, it is false to allege that Dr. Coburn “blocked consideration” of this bill. Dr. Coburn wanted the bill to be paid for and debated on the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who sets the Senate schedule, did not believe this bill was important enough to be debated on the floor.
“The Humane Society should direct its concerns at the human victim of this horrific attack and spend less time trying to score cheap political points. Also, as terrible as the tragedy is, it’s important to keep it in perspective. Chimpanzee attacks against humans are extremely rare. Dog bites, for instance, send 386,000 Americans to the emergency room every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If the Humane Society wants to grandstand about animal bites they might want to broaden their scope.”