I really had no idea that monkeys were used as service animals until I came across this neat program provided by the non-profit organization Helping Hands. We’ve all probably witnessed a seeing eye dog in action assisting the blind, but before encountering it I would have never realized that monkeys could make a similarly worthwhile contribution to the lives of quadriplegics and others suffering from major mobility problems.
Monkeys as Service Animals
While most assistance animals are in fact dogs, the organization has trained helper monkeys for decades to provide them to people with mobility impairments. This training usually takes around 7 years to accomplish. But this still allows for 25-30 years of service because of the monkey’s longer lifespan. In comparison, a trained service dog usually can only serve 10-15 years after training.
Monkeys for the Disabled
Mostly, these trained monkeys are provided to people who have suffered from a major spinal cord injury. But they also help people living with paraplegia and other limited mobility conditions. This includes those with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and amputation. The program received its initial funding from the Veterans Administration and has a history of placing service monkeys with America’s wounded soldiers.
How Can Monkeys Help People?
So how exactly do trained monkeys help their disabled recipients? The training prepares the service animal to do a variety of household tasks. This includes picking up dropped objects, turning devices on and off, opening bottles and even adjusting parts of a wheelchair. The monkey provides the disabled recipient with assistance around the house enabling them to live much more independently. They also offer comfort and companionship to the disabled they serve.
Helping Hands Capuchin Monkeys
The Helping Hands program has been working with capuchin monkeys since 1979. The non-profit completely supports itself through grants and private donations. Helping Hands operates with very little administrative costs, using 93% of funding to support the service program. Monkeys are fully trained and placed with the disabled completely free of charge. Helping Hands maintains ownership of the animals, providing veterinary care and eventually retiring the service animal into a special care home.
Apply for a Helping Hands Monkey Helper
The process to have a capuchin monkey placed into your home usually takes around 3 to 6 months. During this process, Helping Hands fully explores whether or not the program is the right fit for the applicant and a monkey helper. They suggest fully exploring the videos and materials offered on the organization website before applying for the service animal program. If you feel you would benefit from receiving a monkey helper and meet the program’s eligibility requirements, your first step is to submit an inquiry through the organization’s website. This quiz will fully explore your eligibility and refer your information to the program’s placement staff.