The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Neighbor Fears Chimpanzees, Connie Casey Braun

Chimp attack revives area man's nightmare


Jason Coats had to turn off his television during the broadcast of the 911 tape from the scene of a chimpanzee attack in Connecticut last week that nearly left a woman dead

"It was the chimp's screams; I couldn't listen to the screams," he said.

The sounds propelled him back to 2001, when he came face to face with a trio of chimps that escaped from a private farm near Festus. He shot and killed one of them, a 28-year-old chimp named Suzy.

Public outrage over his actions followed, as did a trial and felony conviction for property damage and misdemeanor animal cruelty.

But news of the attack in Connecticut also has left him feeling vindicated — especially because the chimp that mauled its owner's best friend at her home in Stamford, Conn., was the offspring of the chimp he shot eight years ago. The news also has ignited a national debate over chimp ownership.

"It's sad that it takes people being practically killed for people to realize how dangerous these animals are," Coats said. "They are vicious, smart and strong and should never be allowed in residential areas, period."

Last week's attack coupled with its ties to the fatal Festus chimp incident also has reaffirmed at least one former chimp owner's decision to give up the pets she purchased from the Festus farm. She began a crusade to warn others who think the primates are harmless.

The owners of the chimp farm, Connie Braun Casey and her ex-husband, Mike Casey, did not return repeated phone calls for comment.


According to court records filed in the shooting case in 2001, Connie Braun Casey got started in the chimp business sometime in the late 1960s when she opened a pet shop called Braun's Barn along Highway CC near Festus.

She said she paid $12,000 for her first chimp, Coco, in 1975 and $16,000 for a female, Bridget.

The pair began to breed, and Casey estimated that she had sold about 15 to 20 chimps since 1981. At the time, she said each baby chimp sold for $40,000 to $50,000. She also estimated that she had 23 chimps at her facility in 2001 — many of which performed at nursing homes, birthday parties and other area events.

A sign in her front yard reads, "Chimparty, Entertainment for all ages." She also runs a nonprofit called Missouri Chimpanzee Sanctuary for chimps retired from show business or discarded by zoos, to keep them out of research facilities.

Her then-husband, Mike Casey, said in 2001 that the couple made $13,500 from a greeting card photo shoot. He justified the prices by saying it was expensive to care for the chimps, who can live to be 50 to 60 years old.

Casey also said a chimp named Bo bit off the tip of his nose at the farm in 1992. He had surgery to reattach the tip, but "it didn't take."

He blamed himself for the attack, saying walking into the primate's cage with ice cream was like walking into someone's "living room" uninvited. Bo died in 1996.

Between 1984 and 2001, Casey said, Suzy had six babies. Sandra Herold of Stamford, Conn., bought Suzy's son, Travis, shortly after he was born. The chimp was 15 years old when he attacked Herold's best friend last week. Police shot and killed the primate.


Judie Harrison of Pennsylvania contacted Mike Casey the night of the attack in Connecticut. He confirmed the chimp had met the same fate as his mother.

Harrison bought two chimps as infants from Chimparty and paid $45,000 cash for each one. She said her and her husband made the "heartbreaking decision" last October to give the primates to the Little Rock Zoo. The Harrisons spent $20,000 trying to build a habitat for Mikie, 7, and Louie, 5, but couldn't finish it. They went into foreclosure. They haven't spoken to their three children in years.

The children "felt as though they were second to chimps," Harrison said. "Our life is in shambles. We were afraid they would get out and hurt someone and get killed. We cry every day. But I had to put my feelings and wants aside. I woke up before it was too late."

April Truitt of Kentucky also is no longer a primates-as-pets supporter. Her now-husband bought a macaque in 1987, but they soon realized primates needed to live without owners' profiting from their performances or breeding, she said. She now is a primate expert who runs the nonprofit Primate Rescue Center Inc.

She said Missouri was one of the most unregulated states about the business of selling chimps, and put the total number of privately owned chimps at about 235 nationwide. About 30 reside in Missouri, she said.

"It's a common delusion to think that if you raise them they'll be nice to you," she said. "I look forward to day when facilities like mine won't be necessary. But as long as animals can move over state lines, or be bought or sold, there will still be need for facility like mine."

Missouri's Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Howard Pue, said state health officials got involved only when a person was bitten or attacked by an animal, because the bite could spread disease.

"Exotic animals represent an ongoing problem in Missouri because they fall through the regulatory cracks," Pue said. "Many cities have local ordinances banning or restricting ownership of exotic animals. But the state has extremely limited authority to regulate the sale or purchase of these animals."


Coats said people who recognized him still called him the "monkey killer." In the trial, Connie Casey said Coats shot Suzy three times after she had been tranquilized. He said he shot her because she was attacking his dog and turned on him.

The jury convicted him. He spent 30 days in jail, and missed the birth of his first son, his first Father's Day, his wife's high school graduation and their first anniversary. Circuit Judge Gary Kramer ordered Coats to write letters of apology to everyone who wrote to the court. Coats estimates he wrote about 300.

"I have a hard time taking my kids to the ape house at the zoo," he said. "I have phobia of chimps. I don't see how a person couldn't, after what happened."

He fears his sons, Kenny, 6, and Jason, 5, will face the same jeers when they get older. His wife, Angel, said Coats had cried over the stress his conviction had brought on him.

He can't vote. He can't own a firearm. He can't take his sons hunting. And his carpentry business doesn't land certain jobs when criminal background checks reveal his past.

He said the attack in Connecticut was just one of several that should make people realize how dangerous the chimps were. He points to Mike Casey's attack and another that left former chimp owner St. James Davis mutilated and disabled.

"I would rather have a felony than end up like St. James Davis or Mike Casey," he said. "Mine is obviously not the best scenario, but it's far from the worst. I guess I'll take it."

He said he still had a hard time taking his boys to visit family members who live in the house where he shot Suzy. The chimps sometimes swing inside their outdoor enclosure just two doors away.

And he can hear their screams.


No comments:

Post a Comment