Bill Would Allow Kentuckians to Have Service Monkeys

A bill that would permit monkeys to be used as service companions for paralyzed Kentuckians has been filed in the state Senate.

At first blush, state Sen. John Schikel’s bill sounds like fodder for “The Daily Show.” It allows primates to be service companions in private residences.

But when asked about it, Shickel, a former police officer and a Union Republican, breaks down in tears. He tells a story about a family friend who was rendered paraplegic in a car accident, and how a Boston-based nonprofit called Helping Hands—which trains capuchin monkeys to offer companionship and help for paralyzed individuals—could offer a solution if Kentucky law were changed.

“I realize that this is beginning the discussion and there’s problems that will have, and possibly this isn’t even a viable solution, but I want to explore it on behalf of this family, and similar families, that have these kind of challenges,” he says. “I have personally met with this girl and her parents, and I’ve seen the kind of suffering that goes on.”

Shickel says he’s modeled his bill after laws in Ohio and Georgia.

The Nicholasville-based Primate Rescue Center is critical of the efforts. It says putting primates in service situations can be harmful to them.

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