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November 07, 2011

How Charlie the Capuchin Found a New Home

The HSUS’s Pets for Life NYC initiative is designed to help people resolve problems that might otherwise lead them to relinquish their pets to animal shelters. By providing hands-on assistance and solutions for people having problems with their pets or experiencing life crises affecting their ability to care for their animals, the program keeps pets with their families and strengthens the human-animal bond. It’s part of the broader effort in New York City to eliminate the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats, and to showcase a valuable new tool that can be put to use in communities around the nation to help keep people and their pets together.

Pets for Life NYC is available to help people in need seven days a week with the support of more than 50 volunteers and donated services from 23 dog and cat behaviorists, 40 foster parents, several pro-bono attorneys, and more than 25 reduced-cost veterinarians and boarding kennels. As a safety net offering a wide range of services, our team members get their share of interesting and often challenging calls for help. But one day in early October, a not-so-typical call came their way.

Charlie the capuchin monkey
Photo: Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation

The caller stated that she wanted to find a new home for her capuchin monkey, who had been living in her apartment since 1988. Mr. Charlie, as she called him, was showing increasingly challenging behavior.

Mr. Charlie had spent most of the past 23 years in a large bird cage, without the needed companionship of his own kind. For capuchins who are intelligent and highly social, this was a form of solitary confinement. They lead busy, active, stimulating lives and spend most of their time in trees. They are native to Central and South America, not New York City apartments.

Charlie’s early life in Honduras played out like the lives of millions of other exotic animals throughout the world, removed from their native forests at birth and sold into the international wildlife trade—most likely in violation of national and international laws. Charlie somehow landed in someone’s Brooklyn apartment before he had turned a month old. This private ownership of exotics is something that we at The HSUS and Humane Society International are working so hard to discourage and to prohibit through public education and the rule of law.

Charlie’s story does have a happy ending, as Pets for Life NYC immediately went to work seeking permanent sanctuary options and coordinating with the proper authorities and with HSUS staff experts, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and two wonderful wildlife rehabilitators from Long Island. Late last week, after a medical exam and necessary health certification, Charlie left New York for a new life at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, a sanctuary in Kendalia, Texas. The sanctuary is home to many animals, including two other capuchin monkeys who have been rehabilitated after years in captivity.

It would have been better all around for Mr. Charlie had he never left his home in Honduras, and the trade that removed him represents the kind of cruelty and opportunism we’re working hard to prevent. But Pets for Life NYC and the broad and caring sanctuary network that looks after the animal refugees of the international wildlife trade stepped up and found a good solution. After 23 years, Mr. Charlie will enjoy the feel of grass on his toes and the experience of climbing a tree. And, when he’s ready, Charlie will meet other capuchins. We’re wishing Charlie well in this new phase of his life.

If you would like to volunteer with Pets for Life NYC or support its life-saving work, please visit www.humanesociety.org/pflnyc. If you want to support animals in sanctuary, itself a great and pressing need, please consider supporting one of our HSUS sanctuaries or another member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. And if you want to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future, urge Congress to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act.

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