How Do Monkeys Help People?

Monkeys, specifically capuchin monkeys, are trained to help people with spinal cord injuries. These injuries prevent them from moving or from performing numerous tasks unaided. The aid of service monkeys allows them to live independently.

Service monkeys are trained to perform tasks such as turning light switches on and off, placing CDs in CD players, and scratching their owners using a special itch cloth. The monkeys are also trained to do other daily tasks, such as turning on computers and other electronic devices, turning the pages of books, picking up dropped items, and throwing away trash. Service monkeys are trained gradually over three to five years using positive reinforcement and laser pointers until they can perform in-home tasks. Human caretakers tend to personal-care needs and any assistance that patients need outside of the home.

The majority of service monkeys are placed with patients who have spinal cord injuries. Some of them are placed with people who have diseases that limit their mobility significantly, such as people with muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. Despite the help that service monkeys provide to those with disabilities, as of 2011, only dogs are recognized as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some states make exceptions to the ADA rule.