[monkeywire] Connecticut biologist voiced concerns about chimp
josh.greenman at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 11:32:03 EDT 2009
Connecticut biologist voiced concerns about chimp
By SUSAN HAIGH – 1 day ago
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut biologist warned state officials
nearly five months ago that a 200-pound chimpanzee who mauled a woman
last month could seriously hurt someone if he felt threatened,
according to a memo released to state lawmakers Friday.
The biologist also said the chimp's owner violated state law, and
ended her note with the prophetic warning: "I would like to express
the urgency of addressing this issue. It is an accident waiting to
The two-page document was written on Oct. 28, 2008 by an unnamed
Department of Environmental Protection biologist and given to senior
staff at the agency's Bureau of Natural Resources.
It was discovered in an ongoing internal agency review prompted by the
"The animal has reached adult maturity, is very large, and
tremendously strong," the memo says. "I am concerned that if he feels
threatened or if someone enters his territory, he could seriously hurt
The biologist said it was unclear whether the chimp's enclosure was
strong enough to secure the animal named Travis, owned by Sandra
Herold of Stamford and kept at her home.
Neither Herold nor her attorney immediately returned telephone
messages seeking comment Friday evening.
Charla Nash was critically injured Feb. 16 when she was attacked by
the 200-pound chimp. Nash's attorneys say the 55-year-old woman lost
her hands, nose, lips and eyelids and may be blind and suffering brain
damage after the attack. She is being treated at the Cleveland Clinic.
Earlier this week, Nash's family filed a lawsuit against Herold
accusing her of negligence. The suit seeks $50 million in damages.
Dennis Schain, a DEP spokesman, said officials reviewed the memo, but
decided it did not present any new, specific information about any
violent incidents involving the chimp.
The memo does, however, mention how the chimpanzee had escaped from
Herold's car and led police on a chase for hours in downtown Stamford
"In hindsight, we certainly wish we acted more aggressively," Schain
said Friday. "We just felt hamstrung by the ambiguity in the law and
the difficulty of pursuing various options."
A bill before the General Assembly, which would ban the possession of
potentially dangerous animals including chimpanzees and other
primates, cleared the Environment Committee on a 28-2 vote on Friday.
It awaits further action in the House of Representatives.
The biologist's memo was included in a packet of information sent to
legislative leaders, urging them to pass the bill.
In the memo, the biologist said Herold's possession of the chimpanzee
clearly violated an existing law that prohibits someone from owning a
primate that weighs more than 50 pounds at maturity.
The biologist suggested sending a letter to Herold and informing her
of the violation and giving her options on how to comply with state
The biologist also raised the possibilities of allowing Herold to keep
the animal, but in a stronger enclosure; issuing Herold a permit,
which the biologist admitted would be "irresponsible"; giving Herold
the choice to relocate Travis; and contacting local police to see if a
chimp is permitted by local zoning laws.
The memo also suggested having Travis tranquilized and removed from
the home, but the biologist said, "This would be extremely traumatic
for everyone involved and riddled with problems."
Ultimately, officials "chose not to enter into what we believed would
be a battle to take custody of a local celebrity," DEP Commissioner
Gina McCarthy said in a letter to legislators.
McCarthy said the memo underscores the need for a clear, new law that
would forbid ownership of potentially dangerous animals as pets and
impose stiff penalties for those possessing them.
Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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