Based out of Boston, Massachusetts, Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers is a non-profit organization that helps adults with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments live more independent and engaged lives. Helping Hands offers a unique service animal: a highly trained capuchin monkey to help with recipients daily tasks. The only organization of this kind, Helping Hands raises and trains these special service animals and carefully matches them with appropriate recipients across the nation to provide active support and care for those in need. Since 1979, Helping Hands and their monkey helpers have given recipients the priceless gifts of greater independence, companionship, and hope.
Unlike other service animals, capuchin monkeys have able hands and incredibly fine motor skills. This enables these monkeys to perform tasks we take for granted. The monkeys can turn pages, scratch itches, retrieve dropped objects, insert straws into bottles, and reposition limbs on a wheelchair. The monkeys can also turn on buttons and switches for remotes, phones, and computers.
Compared to service dogs, the monkeys in captivity have a longer life span, typically 30-40 years. They are smaller in size, giving the service monkey the ability to cuddle in their human partner’s lap or nook of their neck. They also have hair which alleviates problems with fur-related allergies.
Monkeys also have a strong sense of hierarchy which provides the motivation to care for and be cared for by their human partner. Helping Hands trainers and placement staff utilizes this natural hierarchy to create a beneficial and nurturing relationship between the monkey and the recipient.