ALDF Calls for Investigation in the Death of Chimpanzee Named in Lawsuit Against His 'Trainer'September 3rd, 2006
Cotati, Calif. – The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) faxed a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture this morning urging an investigation into the recent death of the chimpanzee Apollo, who is one of the subjects of a lawsuit the organization has filed against his "trainer," Sid Yost. ALDF has learned that Apollo—who eyewitnesses will testify Yost severely and repeatedly beat in order to force him to perform for film and public appearances—received a fatal rattlesnake bite while in his cage at Yost’s San Bernardino operation on Sunday, July 23. Just last week, another chimpanzee at the Los Angeles Zoo died after being bitten by a rattlesnake that had crawled into his exhibit.
Yost has previously been cited by the USDA for numerous violations relating to the chimpanzees and other animals in his possession, including multiple citations for failure to provide veterinary care. The USDA requires that chimpanzees kept in cages be protected from other animals, like the snake that supposedly killed Apollo, entering their enclosures. The fact that Apollo had been retired as a "performer" and therefore was not a regular source of income for Yost casts additional suspicion on the circumstances surrounding his death and the treatment he received immediately before he died. ALDF has also asked Yost’s lawyers to perform a necropsy and to provide medical records and any pertinent information surrounding the death of Apollo. Apollo’s suffering during his years with Yost will be a key part of the trial against the Southern California animal trainer, scheduled for later this year. The suit is based on documented evidence of violent physical abuse by Yost of the chimpanzees in his possession.
ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and defending the interests of animals through the legal system. A copy of ALDF’s letter to the USDA follows:
August 3, 2006
Dr. Robert Gibbens, DVM
Regional Director, Animal Care
U.S. Department of Agriculture
2150 Centre Ave., Bldg. B
Mail Stop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526
Dear Dr. Gibbens:
On behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), a national, nonprofit organization of law professionals who specialize in the protection of animals and who work to ensure the enforcement of animal protection laws, I am writing to urge you to fully investigate the recent death of Apollo, an approximately eight-year-old male chimpanzee, while he was in the possession of California animal trainer Sid Yost.
According to reports we have received, Yost claims that a rattlesnake entered Apollo’s cage in San Bernardino, California sometime on July 22 or 23, and bit him on the arm. Supposedly, when Yost discovered Apollo had been bitten, he took the chimpanzee to a veterinarian and then returned home with him again on the same day. We have also been told that Apollo died on Monday, July 24.
The federal law governing "primary enclosures" for chimpanzees requires that said enclosures:
"keep other unwanted animals from entering the enclosure or having physical contact with the nonhuman primates."
9 C.F.R. § 3.80.
In addition, the federal law addressing "adequate veterinary care" for chimpanzees mandates:
"the use of appropriate methods to prevent, control, diagnose, and treat diseases and injuries, and the availability of emergency, weekend, and holiday care."
9 C.F.R. § 2.40.
If the story Yost is telling is true, he is in violation of the crucial USDA requirement in Section 3.80—to protect Apollo from this very type of attack.
Yost’s veterinary care for Apollo was also substandard and may have resulted in his death. Snakebites can, of course, be treated, although treatment may be expensive and prolonged. We note that Apollo was the oldest of the chimpanzees in Yost’s possession and was no longer being used in live appearances or in film/television performances. In fact, he probably could no longer be used—chimpanzees are typically retired near Apollo’s age because they become too unpredictable and/or aggressive to work with. The fact that Yost was no longer profiting from Apollo as a "performer" while continuing to pay for his care casts a further shadow on the apparent negligence involved in Apollo’s death.
In November 2005, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, along with four other plaintiffs, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Yost based on his abuse of the chimpanzees in his possession; the mistreatment included regular and unprovoked beatings. Co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including primatologist Sarah Baeckler, who worked with Yost for more than a year, have witnessed him repeatedly and violently beat Apollo and other chimpanzees with sticks, punch them with his fists, and inflict excessive pain on them in order to force them to perform for film, television, and public appearances. The case is set for trial later this year. Thus, the fact that Apollo was also an important part of the trial—and is now unavailable—is of great concern.
Yost has been cited by the USDA and by the California Department of Fish and Game for numerous previous violations relating to the chimpanzees and other animals in his possession, including multiple citations for failure to provide veterinary care. I urge you to fully investigate the tragic loss of this healthy chimpanzee and ensure that any negligent parties are held accountable.
cc: Ryan Broddick
California Department of Fish and Game
1416 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814