With a spray of white and gray fur framing her ruddy, narrow face, and a pair of dark inquisitive eyes darting out Sunday from a carrier at the SPCA, Luna the pint-size monkey didn’t look threatening.
But looks don’t tell the entire story, said officials with the SPCA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
At a Hauppauge news conference Sunday to introduce Luna, a white-faced capuchin removed recently from a Brentwood home, SPCA and DEC officials said she is just like any other exotic animal kept by owners illegally — wild, unpredictable, and not suitable as a household pet.
Her discovery after an anonymous tip followed the removal of a 6-foot alligator from a Medford home in April by the Suffolk SPCA.
SPCA Chief Roy Gross Sunday encouraged owners of exotic animals to take advantage of the county’s permanent amnesty program that allows owners to turn in the pets with no questions asked.
In the case of monkeys, they are known to bite, cause infections, and spread disease, state officials said.
“Even though it’s a small monkey, it could be dangerous,” said Ronald Gross, a conservation officer with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, at the Suffolk SPCA headquarters.
The only things Luna chomped on at the news conference were little black berries squeezed through the cage that she grabbed with tiny dark-colored hands and quickly shoveled into her mouth before glancing out for more.
Luna is from the family of monkeys made famous by accompanying organ grinders in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the film, “The Raiders of the Lost Ark,” a monkey similar to Luna met its demise after downing a palm date bathed in poison and meant for Indiana Jones.
Roy Gross said Luna’s owners in Brentwood — a place far from the thick, dense Central and South America rain forests native to her type of primate — were cited recently for keeping the monkey without a special permit from the DEC. The citation carries a fine of up to $250.
Since Jan. 1, 2006, it has been illegal in New York State to own monkeys as pets. People who owned them before the law took effect were allowed to keep their monkeys.
Luna’s owners were cooperative and told Roy Gross they had owned her for at least 10 years but couldn’t produce any proof. Luna, about 20, will be placed in a facility equipped to take care of monkeys, he said.
Gross did not identify the owners but said he got the impression that Luna’s wild streak eventually proved too much for them to handle.
“It’s not something you want to have as a pet and I think over time they realized that,” he said.