Tougher laws urged for exotic pets

The Connecticut Post

February 19, 2009

By Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — “Lax,” “vague” and “defective” state laws and regulations on the possession of exotic animals need to be tightened to make sure the chimp-mauling tragedy in Stamford never happens again, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday.

Blumenthal said chimpanzees, dangerous snakes and other wild animals should be banned from private homes, under penalty of state misdemeanor charges that include six months in prison and $5,000 fines.

The attorney general’s announcement was praised by the Darien-based Friends of Animals. View Full Story

Blumenthal calls for exotic animal ban in wake of Stamford chimpanzee attack

The Stamford Advocate — Stamford CT

February 18, 2009

By Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — “Lax” state laws and regulations on the possession of exotic animals need to be tightened to make sure the chimp-mauling tragedy in Stamford never happens again, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday. View Full Story

Chimp attack calls for state law review

The Hour — Stamford CT

February 17, 2009

Hour Staff Writer

As police continue to investigate Monday’s chimpanzee attack that left the primate dead and the owner’s friend in critical condition, state and local officials are questioning existing exotic pet ownership laws.

Stamford resident Charla Nash, 55, was still in critical condition at Stamford Hospital Tuesday after she was mauled and bitten by a 200-pound ape named Travis, who attacked her at the owner’s home on Rock Rimmon Road.

Nash had been called by the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold, to help coax Travis back into the house after he escaped by using a key to unlock the front door. Travis then turned on Nash, bolting after her and brutally beating her in the driveway of Herold’s home.

Stamford police arrived shortly after the attack and were forced to kill Travis when he cornered one officer inside his police cruiser.

Police played back the horrific dispatch communication for more than dozen members of the media who gathered at Stamford police headquarters Tuesday evening. The audio included a wildly distraught Herold, who took refuge inside her car and pleaded for police to respond to the scene as her pet ape punched and bit the face of Nash as she lay motionless in the driveway.

“Please, you have to shoot this chimp!” Herold screamed to the dispatch unit on the other line. “He’s killing my friend — he ripped her apart!”

The attack lasted about 12 minutes and police officers responded within five minutes of Herold’s 911 call, said Capt. Richard Conklin.

Police are still questioning what could have provoked the 14-year-old chimp to act in such a wild manner, but animal advocates say the answer is obvious.

“A chimpanzee is not a domestic pet,” said Pricilla Feral, president of the international animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, based in Darien. “Keeping an animal like that as a pet and force-training it goes against all of its natural instincts. For an attack like this to happen should be expected.”

Feral said she was appalled to hear the state issues permits to homeowners for primates such as chimpanzees. In the wake of Monday’s incident, Feral is calling on the state to adopt new legislation that would make primate pet ownership illegal. She is also requesting that existing permits for primates be exposed and revoked.

“The state has no business issuing permits to people to keep these animals as pets,” said Feral. “The fact that Stamford allowed this to occur in its own backyard is astonishing.”

At a news conference Monday, Mayor Dannel Malloy said the city lacked jurisdiction to control Herold from having Travis on her property, and state and federal laws were “grandfathered” to allow her to maintain ownership of him.

Talking with the state Department of Environ-mental Protection, Conklin said he learned the DEP overlooked a key piece of legislation passed in 2004 that would require owners obtain a permit for any primate weighing more than 50 pounds or less that had been possessed prior to Oct. 1, 2003. According to the statute, the issuance of such permits is left up to the discretion of the commissioner.

Attorney General Rich-ard Blumenthal said a state statute was passed last year in regard to the possession of potentially dangerous animals and penalties for noncompliance with the law. Primates are not on that list, but a separate statute allows any Con-necticut municipality to impose its own regulations to prohibit the keeping of wild or domestic animals.

“As a matter of state law, Stamford would have the authority to take action,” said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal added that his office will be requesting the legislature review the new statute and update the list of dangerous animals to include primates. He is also looking for the legislature to amend the 2004 statute, making it more specific.