SPRINGFIELD - Monkeys might make you laugh. But they also might bite you or pass diseases on to you.

That's why one state lawmaker and the Humane Society of the United States want to ban Illinoisans from keeping primates as pets.

Legislation introduced last week would keep anyone in Illinois from owning a monkey or ape, with the exception of zoos, circuses and scientific labs.

The Humane Society argues that while monkeys are cuddly when they're young, they can grow up to be a handful. And they can carry diseases humans can also get, including Herpes B, salmonella, tuberculosis and monkey pox.

"People don't know how to take care of primates," said Jordan Matyas, Illinois director of the Humane Society.

Ken Walker, an exotic pet broker from Paxton, mostly agrees that a lot of people don't know what they're getting into when they think about getting a pet primate. But he says banning ownership is "ridiculous" and suggested some pet owners could protest the legislation.

"There are people out there who are qualified to work with them," Walker said.

He suggested perhaps requiring disease testing of the monkeys. And Walker said anyone interested in owning them needs to educate themselves first.

He said some monkeys can live 40 years and bite later in their lives.

"I think it takes a special person to own them correctly," Walker said.

The legislation was introduced by state Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago. It won't be debated at least until February. Twenty other states already ban monkey ownership.

"I'm convinced it's a good public safety initiative," said Burke.

Burke's plan wouldn't force people who already own primates to get rid of them. If the proposal is eventually approved, owners would have to register the animal with local authorities.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk, a congressman from Highland Park, sponsored federal legislation last year that would bar people from moving a monkey across state lines. The measure was approved by the U.S. House but has not become law.

Burke said he hopes to push his ban through this year.

"It's up to me to persuade my colleagues that it's serious," Burke said.

The legislation is House Bill 4801.

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