Helping Hands is a very special nonprofit; it’s the only organization of its kind to provide service monkeys to the disabled. Founded in 1979, the organization trains capuchin monkeys to assist with everything from opening doors to fetching items.
The monkeys themselves are pretty small. According to BioExpedition.com, the average capuchin monkey is anywhere from 12 to 22 inches tall and weighs between 2-3 pounds. They’re cute, they’re small, they’re helpful, and they’re also highly intelligent.
Helping Hands chose to train monkeys because of their dexterous hands and remarkable fine motor skills. Monkeys are able to perform a lot of tasks that traditional service dogs can’t; they can turn pages, insert straws into cups, open containers, turn on buttons and switches, and even reposition limbs on a wheel chair.
Also of note is that the monkeys can live anywhere from 30-40 years. They’re also hypoallergenic, since they have human-like hair instead of fur.
The reason monkeys make such great service animals is because they have a natural hierarchy within their species, meaning that they have a strong desire to take care of their leader. But the relationship is a two-way street; monkeys also love to be cuddled and nurtured. Therefore, those who want a monkey assistant must be willing to provide them with the type of environment they need.
For those who want to apply for a monkey, be aware that the process can take anywhere from 3-6 months. Applicants must meet the eligibility requirements, which include being at least one year post-injury or post-diagnosis.
Eligible applicants also cannot have any young children living at home. Helping Hands states that children under the age of 12 can be “unpredictable and make it difficult to maintain the structure that monkeys need.”
Before being given a monkey, a representative from Helping Hands will visit the applicant’s home to go over roles and responsibilities. The organization takes great care to ensure both the monkey and the applicant are good matches for one another.
Helping Hands is based out of Boston, MA and can be reached at (617) 787-4419.