Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 21, 2014

Service monkeys

Bill would allow them here

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — Most of us are fully aware of the value of trained dogs in helping people who are blind or suffering from diabetes and even children with autism. The use of such highly trained canines is not even considered controversial.

But much less is known about using trained monkeys to help the handicapped. Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, has filed a bill that would allow an adult living with paralysis to obtain to a permit to possess a trained service monkey to perform day-to-day tasks and activities in a home environment. Schnickel’s permit says his bill comes at the request of a family in his northern Kentucky district. The family wants to use a service monkey to assist their daughter, who was paralyzed in an automobile accident.

The bill’s critics include Sarah Baeckler Davis, executive director of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance. She says monkeys are wild animals that don’t belong in homes. But the group Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers has a 35-year history of using trained capuchin monkeys to help paralyzed adults with simple tasks, such as picking up dropped items or flipping on light switches. The group’s executive director, Megan Talbert, says the monkeys are “safe and wonderful” companions.

So there you have it, two individuals with a long history of working with monkeys with opposite views of their value in helping the handicapped. Who do you believe?

It seems to us the best way of determining the value  — and dangers, if any — of service monkeys is to hear from the people who have them. If they can offer glowing recommendations about how their monkeys have helped them, then the General Assembly should clear the way for individuals to have them. If, on the other hand, opponents of the bill can provide solid examples of the service monkeys injuring their owners or others, then legislators should move cautiously before approving Senate Bill 80.