Primate Owners Worry About New Legislation

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A bill is moving through the Missouri legislature to try and keep visitors safe from animals that escape at zoos. The Kansas City Zoo did enact an emergency procedure as a precaution. The area near the gorilla exhibit was evacuated and visitors were moved into safe buildings on Sunday.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City say zoos will be under the same rules and regulations as the private sector. Because the law is still a draft, it's unclear exactly what that will mean for everyone. For some people who own primates for a living that is causing quite a bit of concern.

Debbie Kolwick owns Savanah Land in Pleasant Hill, Missouri. She and her husband have had primates for  30 years. They make a living with the animals often by breeding and selling them to USDA inspected organizations like zoos and other parks. Now, Kolwick fears that could change because a bill she know very little about.

"It scares us a lot," said primate owner Debbie Kolwick.

She says Savanah Land is inspected by the USDA and follows their federal guidelines.

"We feel like we've paid for the chimps, we've paid for the cages, the property, we've never had an incident," said Kolwick.

She says they've never had a primate escape and now she worries the state will not only duplicate what the USDA does but add unnecessary rules and expenses.

"The state already has several regulations," said Suzanne Windsor with America's Animal Owners. "You already have to register your primates with your local sheriff's department. This bill is very unnecessary they are recreating what is already on the books."

Lawmakers may not see it that way. Senate Bill 666 is currently in draft form with changes expected for the licensing and insuring of exotic animals. Until something is agreed upon, these animal owners say they can't get a copy.

"As the public, we should have enough time and know what they're presenting so we can speak on what they're presenting and make sure we can affect the laws they're trying to put in," Windsor said. "We'd like to at least see the legislation that's going to be affecting our lives if this does pass."

FOX 4 reached out the the senator's office on Monday who proposed the bill. We were told they want to work with the animal owners to make the bill help the exotic animal owners and still keep the public safe.

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