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April 2, 2009

The HSUS Renews Call for Stronger Exotic Pet Laws after Chimp Killed in Mo.

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States called on Missouri and federal lawmakers to strengthen exotic pet laws after yet another chimpanzee incident ended in tragedy. Timmy, a 9-year-old chimpanzee, escaped from a home in Winston, Mo. and was shot and killed Monday.

Missouri law requires people who have primates to register them with local law enforcement, but Timmy and three other primates kept at the home were reportedly not registered. The Missouri legislature is considering legislation that would require permits for certain dangerous wild animals and prohibit public contact with the animals. This would represent an important step forward, but The HSUS urges the legislature to protect people and wildlife by prohibiting dangerous wild animals, including primates, as pets.

"Lives were put in danger and another chimpanzee suffered and died because of Missouri's porous laws on exotic animal ownership. It's time for the state to stop hedging and to take decisive action to prohibit private possession of chimpanzees and other dangerous wild animals as pets," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "Keeping these animals in our backyards or basements inevitably results in tragedy for people or the animals themselves."

On March 3, Pacelle sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon urging him to halt the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals in the state.

On March 18, The HSUS named Missouri one of the five worst states for exotic pets, citing the lack of enforcement of the registration requirement and the proliferation of exotic animal breeders, dealers and auctions. In addition, two people were attacked by tigers in 2008, and in February a tiger was removed from a Newton County, Mo. puppy mill, along with about 150 dogs. The other states named are Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Ohio.

Monday's incident follows one in Stamford, Conn. in February when a chimpanzee, Travis, escaped from a home and mauled a woman before being killed by police. Travis was born at a Festus, Mo. facility that breeds chimpanzees for entertainment and the pet trade.

The HSUS is supporting federal legislation, the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 80/S. 462), to prohibit interstate commerce in primates as pets. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming 323-95 vote in February and is now pending in the U.S. Senate. The organization also is backing legislation in state legislatures to prohibit private possession of certain wild animals including primates.

A 2006 health advisory issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services strongly discouraged people from having primates as pets. It noted that "the view that primates are harmless and can be raised like humans is a gross misconception, since they are capable of inflicting tremendous physical damage and transmitting numerous infectious diseases to people."

Timmy is the 11th chimpanzee killed in the United States since 1999.

Timeline

  • 2009 (Missouri): Timmy, a 9-year-old chimpanzee, broke out of his cage and the home where he was being kept and was shot and killed by authorities.
  • 2009 (Connecticut): Travis, a 200-pound chimpanzee kept as a pet, mauled a woman beyond recognition. Police officers shot and killed him.
  • 2008 (Texas): Tony, a 140-pound, 17-year-old chimpanzee, escaped from a research center by jumping more than 15 feet to a perimeter wall. A police officer shot and killed him.
  • 2005 (Nebraska): Rueben, Tyler and Jimmy Joe, chimpanzees who weighed more than 200 pounds, escaped from their enclosure at Zoo Nebraska. The zoo director first shot two of them with a tranquilizer gun. When the tranquilizer did not take effect after five minutes, he shot and killed the three chimpanzees.
  • 2003 (California): Buddy and Ollie, chimpanzees formerly used in the entertainment industry, escaped their enclosure at an exotic animal facility. They mauled a man nearly to death. The son-in-law of the facility owner shot and killed them. Moe, a chimpanzee who had been kept as a pet for many years by the injured man, remained in an enclosure and watched the attack. Moe was later transferred to another facility, from which he escaped in 2008 and has not been seen again.
  • 2001 (Missouri): Suzy, a 28-year-old chimpanzee who was Travis' mother, escaped from an exotic animal facility along with two other chimpanzees. She was shot and killed by a teen who said he feared for his safety. Suzy was used to breed chimpanzees who could be sold or used in entertainment. She had reportedly been at the facility for 17 years and given birth to six infants.
  • 1999 (Utah): Chip and Happy, chimpanzees at the Hogle Zoo, escaped their enclosure and attacked a zoo volunteer. The man lost a finger and part of his nose and suffered massive head, leg and arm injuries, requiring 10 surgeries. The chimpanzees were euthanized after being shot by zoo staff.

Compiled from news reports by The Humane Society of the United States.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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