Can You Own a Monkey in Texas? Is it Legal?

Can You Own a Monkey in Texas

Not sure about can you own a monkey in texas? Owning exotic animals like monkeys as pets is a controversial issue.

Some people argue that primates should not be kept as pets for ethical reasons, others believe that responsible private ownership should be allowed.

This article examines the legality and regulations around owning monkeys as pets in the state of Texas.

Can You Own a Monkey in Texas?

is it legal to own a monkey in texas
is it legal to own a monkey in texas

Yes, you can own a monkey in Texas. Owning a monkey in Texas is legal, though there are some restrictions depending on the species.

Texas has relatively loose exotic animal ownership laws compared to other states, allowing residents to own monkeys, spider monkey, lemurs, and other primates as pets without needing a permit or license.

What Kinds of Monkeys Can You Legally Own in Texas?

While Texas law allows ownership of many monkey species, some primates like gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans have additional restrictions:

  • Small monkeys – Smaller monkeys like marmosets, finger, tamarins, and capuchins can be owned without any special permitting. These are popular pet monkey species.
  • Lemurs – Lemurs are legal to own as pets in Texas. They are prosimians native to Madagascar.
  • Larger monkeys – Larger monkeys like macaques and baboons can also be owned in Texas without restriction.
  • Apes – Texas classifies gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans as “dangerous wild animals.” Owning them requires registration, special caging requirements, and liability insurance.

Texas allows ownership of nearly all monkeys and prosimians, with just some extra regulations around owning great apes like gorillas and chimpanzees.

Local Laws Restricting Monkey Ownership?

In Texas, most exotic pet laws are determined at the city and county level:

  • County Laws – Over 100 counties in Texas prohibit owning “dangerous wild animals.” This sometimes includes primates even if the state doesn’t restrict that species.
  • City Ordinances – Many major cities like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and El Paso specifically ban owning monkeys and other primates within city limits.

Costs of Owning a Monkey in Texas?

it is possible to legally purchase certain types of monkeys as pets in Texas. Owning a monkey is a major commitment, both in terms of time, money, and responsibility. Here are some of the costs to factor in if you plan to own a monkey in Texas:

  • Purchase Cost – Expect to pay $4,000-$8,000 to purchase a young monkey from a breeder. Some species cost even more.
  • Housing – Monkeys require specialized, secure housing customized to their needs. This ranges from $2,000 for a small monkey up to $60,000 for a large habitat.
  • Food – Plan on spending $100-$150 per month to feed your monkey a healthy, species-appropriate diet.
  • Vet Care – Routine vet care costs $200-$500 per year. Additionally, any major medical issues can cost thousands.
  • Enrichment – Monkeys need lots of toys, swings, and other environmental enrichment to stay happy and healthy. This costs $50-$150 per month.

The upfront cost to purchase a monkey may seem manageable, the ongoing costs of properly caring for a monkey are substantial. Make sure you carefully consider this commitment.

Laws on Monkey Ownership in Texas

In Texas, it is legal to own certain species of monkeys, but there are restrictions in place. Here is an overview of the state laws regarding private monkey ownership:

  • No ban on all monkeys – Texas does not have a blanket ban on all nonhuman primate ownership like some other states do. Owning certain monkey species is allowed with proper permitting.
  • Permit required – To legally own a monkey in Texas, you must obtain a Nonhuman Primate Permit from Texas Parks and Wildlife. This permit is good for one year and must be renewed annually.
  • Only certain species allowed – The permit only allows possession of certain smaller monkey species like marmosets and capuchins. Larger, more powerful monkeys like baboons, chimpanzees and gorillas are prohibited.
  • Microchipping required – All permitted monkeys must be microchipped with owner information for identification purposes. This allows lost or escaped monkeys to be returned to proper owners.
  • Caging and care requirements – Texas has detailed caging and care requirements for permitted monkeys to ensure humane treatment. Cages must meet minimum space requirements and be properly cleaned and maintained.

Monkey Ownership Permit Process

Here are the steps required to obtain a monkey ownership permit in Texas:

  1. Choose an allowed monkey species – Select a small monkey species like a marmoset, capuchin, or pygmy that is permitted by the state. Larger apes are prohibited.
  2. Pass a facility inspection – The cage and living quarters for the monkey must pass an inspection by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Proper space, sanitation, food/water access and enrichment must be provided.
  3. Pay permit fee – There is a $252 fee to obtain a Nonhuman Primate Permit, which must be renewed annually for $152.
  4. Submit application – Fill out and submit the permit application with all required information and documentation.
  5. Undergo background check – Applicants undergo a criminal background check to ensure no history of animal cruelty or related offenses.
  6. Receive permit – If approved, the Nonhuman Primate Permit will be issued by mail. You can then legally obtain and own the monkey.

Proper Monkey Care

Caring for monkeys takes extensive time, resources and dedication. Here are some key elements of proper monkey care:


  • Minimum cage sizes from 6 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft (marmosets) up to 10 ft x 10 ft x 8 ft (capuchins/macaques)
  • Indoor and outdoor access ideal
  • Proper temperature, humidity, lighting
  • Enrichment like perches, toys, swings


  • Species-appropriate fruits, vegetables, protein
  • No chocolate, caffeine, alcohol
  • Food enrichment like puzzles, hidden treats
  • Fresh water always available


  • Thrive in bonded pairs/groups with their own species
  • Require daily attention and interaction with owners
  • Training helps with bonding and handling

Veterinary Care

  • Find an exotic vet before acquiring monkey
  • Annual exams, vaccines, parasite treatments
  • Can live 15-20 years or more with proper care

Owning a monkey is a major commitment – they rely completely on owners to meet their complex physical and social needs.

What is the best monkey to have as a pet?

Marmosets – Small New World monkeys native to South America. They are social and can be kept as bonded pairs. Average 12-15 inches long and require large wire enclosures.

Capuchin monkeys – Intelligent, crafty monkeys from Central and South America. Require lots of space and enrichment. Average 14-22 inches long. Illegal in some states.

Squirrel monkeys – Active, social monkeys that live in large groups. Native to Central and South America. Average 12-24 inches long. Require large enclosure.

Pygmy marmosets – The smallest monkey species at 5-6 inches long. Shy but social. Need indoor cage and supervised outdoor time.


Are pet monkeys dangerous?

Monkeys can potentially harm humans, especially larger, stronger species. But smaller monkeys permitted in Texas like marmosets are not considered high-risk. With proper handling techniques, caging, training and care, private ownership can be done safely.

Can I register my existing pet monkey in Texas?

If you already own an unpermitted monkey in Texas, you cannot simply register it after the fact. The state will confiscate unpermitted monkeys from owners. You must go through the full permitting process and meet requirements before acquiring the monkey.

Can you own apes in Texas?

No, it is illegal to privately own apes like chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and gibbons as pets in Texas. The state only allows possession of certain smaller old world monkey species like marmosets and capuchins with proper permitting. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department prohibits private citizens from owning dangerous wild animals, which includes all species of apes.

About Hailey Pruett

Hailey “Lex” Pruett is a nonbinary writer at YIHY primarily covering reptiles and amphibians. They have over five years of professional content writing experience. Additionally, they grew up on a hobby farm and have volunteered at animal shelters to gain further experience in animal care.

A longtime resident of Knoxville, Tennessee, Hailey has owned and cared extensively for a wide variety of animals in their lifetime, including cats, dogs, lizards, turtles, frogs and toads, fish, chickens, ducks, horses, llamas, rabbits, goats, and more!

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