More Evidence that Connecticut Is No Place for Chimpanzees

Posted by Lisa Franzetta, ALDF's Director of Communications on February 19, 2009

The tragic death of Travis, a Connecticut family’s “pet” chimpanzee, earlier this week, has been making international headlines. Sadly, the unfortunate result of keeping a chimpanzee as a pet comes as no surprise to us at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, where we have worked to protect the interests of Great Apes for decades. Most recently, ALDF sued Hollywood “trainer” Sid Yost for animal cruelty in a case based on the undercover work of primatologist Sarah Baeckler (Yost denies liability; Statement of Settlement). That case resulted in a landmark settlement in which ALDF rescued the chimpanzees in Yost’s care and delivered them to sanctuaries and entered into a settlement agreement with Yost. Baeckler, meanwhile, went on to Lewis & Clark Law School, with a focus on animal law, and she is now the executive director of Washington’s Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW). For more information on the sanctuary, check out the cover story from the fall 2008 issue of The Animals’ Advocate (PDF).

For an expert perspective on Travis’s death, we’re republishing a blog post by CSNW Director of Outreach Diana Goodrich:

We prefer to keep things focused on the positive and love sharing the daily lives of the chimpanzees at Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest. But the fact is that it is a shame our sanctuary has to exist at all. The Cle Elum Seven never should have been used in research or entertainment. Chimpanzees simply do not belong in biomedical research, entertainment or in people’s homes as pets. Period. And yesterday there was evidence for some of the reasons why this is true.

On Monday afternoon in Stamford, Connecticut a 15 year old chimpanzee “pet” named Travis attacked a woman he had known for years, leaving her in critical condition. When the police arrived at the scene, they fatally shot Travis. There are now numerous stories with greater detail about this incident all over the news, including NBC.

Travis was bred in captivity to be used by humans. He reportedly appeared in commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola. His owners drove him around town. And this was not the first time the authorities of Stamford had to be called in to try to contain him.

For those of us who care for chimpanzees, it is difficult not to be angry about this incident. We know that chimpanzees should not be kept as pets – we’ve seen tragedies like this before. We know that chimpanzees should only be kept in secure enclosures. We know that chimpanzees in entertainment are usually discarded after a few years because they become too difficult to “handle.” And we know that chimpanzees are intelligent, social, amazing, and, yes, sometimes violent beings.

There should be laws in place in every state banning the keeping of chimpanzees as pets. Hollywood by choice or by being forced through legislation should never use a chimpanzee in entertainment again. Our hope is that this tragedy will create action to make these things happen, and we will do our part to help.

Diana can be reached at diana@chimpsanctuarynw.org.