WTNH TV — Connecticut

* Story by: Annie Rourke

Stamford (WTNH) – You can get a permit for an exotic pet in Connecticut. But, the animal should not be more than 50 lbs. The chimp named Travis, that attacked his owner’s friend and left her in critical condition, was 200 lbs. But, he was somehow “grandfathered” in. This now has primate activists outraged.

“Beer commercials, soda commercials, you know, people watch the Super Bowl and think it’s terribly amusing to see primates in commercials,” Friends of Animals‘ Priscilla Feral said.

It’s called the pet trade. And, a chimpanzee like Travis can be very lucrative. As a baby, he would’ve sold for about $30,000 and brought in much more for the work. At one time, Travis did star in commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola.

“A chimpanzee in the entertainment industry, or movies, is pushed around and sometimes hit a lot to cooperate,” Feral said. “At about the age of 6, they stop cooperating.”

Chimps, and other primates, are often then sold to roadside circuses or medical laboratories for testing. The lucky ones get to a sanctuary like Primarily Primates in San Antonio; it’s run by Friends of Animals in Darien.

Travis was kept as a pet in Stamford. News Channel 8 has been told he was treated like one of the family, dressing himself and drinking wine at the dinner table with his owner. But animal experts say they are not human.

“These are wild animals and very dangerous animals,” said Beardsley Zoo Director Gregg Dancho.

News Channel 8 has been told the owner, 70-year-old Sandra Herold, used Travis as a kind of mascot for her business and he was well-known in town. He once stopped traffic for a time when he escaped the car. Feral believes all of this was a ticking time-bomb. She is actually surprised the chimp didn’t attack sooner.

“It’s also the responsibility of our government, in Connecticut, every state government, to prohibit this kind of relationship,” said Feral.

News Channel 8 tried to contact the Department of Environmental Protection about the permit for the chimpanzee. They did not return our calls for comment.

Friends of Animals is now demanding a list of all the monkeys and chimps who are permitted in the state of Connecticut. They say it is simply too dangerous for everyone involved.