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Couple banned from keeping animals for 10 years after mistreating pet marmoset

07 Nov 2023 5 minute read
Precious the marmoset was not care for properly

A couple have been banned from keeping animals for 10 years after they failed to care appropriately for a marmoset monkey they kept as a pet.

Laura Pittman and Jonathan Leighton Phillips, from Ferndale, Rhondda Cynon Taf , appeared at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Court on 27 September and pleaded guilty to two offences under the Animal Welfare Act.

The mistreatment of the white-faced marmoset – commonly known as a Geoffroy’s marmoset monkey – led to it suffering from severe metabolic bone disease.


The marmoset – named Precious – was put to sleep on veterinary advice to prevent further suffering.

The animals owners had not researched how to look after a marmoset and admitted failing to provide adequate and appropriate care.

The couple were sentenced on 2 November at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates Court and handed a 12 month community order with 10 days RAR.

They were both fined £350, and ordered to pay a £140 victim surcharge. Phillips was also ordered to pay £966.71 costs, and Pittman was ordered to pay £965.21 costs.

In mitigation it was heard that both defendants were remorseful for their actions and had been behind the RSPCA being contacted to start with.

It was heard that they had co-operated throughout and they had been well intentioned but provided incompetent care.


The court heard a written statement from RSPCA deputy chief inspector Gemma Cooper, stating that the son of one of the defendants had called the charity alleging that the previous owner of the marmoset had died and handed her to them to care for.

He told the RSPCA that they didn’t know how to look after her, and thought she needed emergency vet treatment.

It was on 1 April of this year when DCI Cooper attended the Ferndale property and saw Precious for the first time. She was told by the defendant’s son that the marmoset was around 18 months old.

She said: “He invited me into the living room of the house where the marmoset was confined in a small cat carrier and all of her belongings were packed in a bag.”

DCI Cooper said she was “shocked” by the confidence in which the man handled her given that he had only just acquired her.

“The marmoset was screaming and rolling around in a chaotic and unpredictable manner and unable to walk,” she said.

“He went through the bag of things for Precious, explaining that the primate pellets were what she should be eating but that she doesn’t like them so she has been eating mainly grapes and fruit.

“He said that he has heard the owner was feeding her raisins and so she probably has ricketts.”


The marmoset was then signed over to the RSPCA and taken to a vets where she was examined by veterinary staff and hospitalised for further treatment and investigation.

Through enquiries it was found that the defendant’s had been trying to sell Geoffroy’s marmosets on 4 January 2023 through social media. The defendant’s then admitted ownership.

On 3 April the exotics specialist at the vets called to say he had examined the marmoset and due to the severity of her condition euthanasia was recommended.

In the written vet report, provided to the court, it was said that an initial examination revealed that it was having severe difficulties with mobility.

The radiographic findings were consistent with severe metabolic bone disease – which the vet explained as a disease which develops when an animal becomes deficient in calcium and/or vitamin D3.

In response to other factors discussed by defendants in an interview with DCI Cooper, he said there were a “number of concerns”.

Although Precious had been present with another monkey named George when first bought, it was heard from the defendant’s that George was returned to the original owner about a week or two after they were acquired.

“This would suggest that Precious has been without companionship for a period of approximately a year,” added the vet.

Poor diet

Marmoset monkeys are highly social animals that naturally live in groups of up to 20 animals.

They need to be kept with members of their own species so they can socialise and display behaviours like social grooming, food sharing, communal resting and interactive play.

RSPCA’s head of wildlife, Dr Ros Clubb, added: “This is a heartbreaking case and Precious will undoubtedly have suffered horribly. Sadly we fear there are many more marmosets like Precious suffering behind closed doors because people do not know how to look after these animals properly and, as well as causing suffering to the animals, the owners risk falling foul of the law. That is why we, and other charities, are so concerned about the situation and wish to see the keeping and trade of primates as pets come to an end.

“Because of the specific needs of these animals their level of suffering can be extreme. As well as dietary and environmental needs, primates are highly social animals and they have extremely complex behavioural and social needs – but sadly in many cases they are being kept alone. They are wild animals that do not belong in people’s homes.”

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