Candy, the Solitary Chimpanzee

UPDATE: Tragically, Candy died on April 20, 2017, before her case went to trial. Read more about her death.


Candy the chimpanzee has lived her entire life—more than fifty years—serving as a sideshow attraction for the titillation of tourists and gawkers. In her younger days, she appeared in stage acts with other chimpanzees and even interacted with visitors to the amusement park run by her human owner. During that time, she never had the chance to form actual bonds with the other chimps she occasionally performed with, and over time she was relegated to a lonely life in a cage.

Samuel Haynes, Jr., Candy’s owner, currently runs the Dixie Landin’ amusement park. He has been in the amusement business for decades, and Candy has played a part in his different parks and acts. Her living conditions varied through the years, including a small cage the size of a dog kennel for twenty years. None have ever met the needs of such a complex, social species.

Candy currently lives in a metal cage, smaller than many living rooms, which sits on a concrete slab. Candy has a few toys (mostly provided by animal advocates), but the cage is devoid of nesting materials—depriving her of one of the most basic instinctual acts of chimpanzees: nest building. She has no interactions with other chimpanzees (there are no other animals at Dixie Landin’).

Is Candy’s Captivity Even Legal?

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Candy’s situation is even more troubling because several key federal acts should be protecting her from such detrimental treatment. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires exhibitors to provide “a physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of primates.” Candy’s lacks adequate stimulation in her cage, given how unlike her natural habitat it is.

Dixie Landin’ has been cited by local and federal officials repeatedly for violating local and federal animal protection laws, including citations for failing to provide veterinary and enrichment plans, as well as dangerous habitat and feeding conditions.

In August 2015, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is responsible for enforcing the AWA, cited Samuel Haynes, Jr. for 1) an insufficient barrier between Candy and the public, allowing individuals to throw items into her cage, including lit cigarettes; 2) keeping Candy’s food in a storage room filled with garbage; 3) feeding Candy out of receptacles that could cause her injury; and 4) failing to provide her with an adequate program of veterinary care.

Chimpanzees are also protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). When wild chimpanzees were listed as “endangered” under the ESA in 1990, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service improperly exempted chimps in captivity, providing them with lesser protections. However, the Fish & Wildlife Service rescinded that policy, effective September 14, 2015, eliminating the distinction between captive and wild chimpanzees, thereby escalating protection for captive chimps, providing them with higher requirements for care and shelter.

Endangered species are protected from harassment, with “harass” being defined by the Department of the Interior as “an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”

The listing of captive chimpanzees as endangered created legal grounds for ALDF to file suit on Candy’s behalf.

Chimpanzees are extraordinarily intelligent and social animals and subjecting these critically endangered animals to solitary confinement and deprivation of their most basic needs is unconscionable and illegal. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is going to court to ensure that Candy’s right to adequate habitat and physical and psychological enrichment are recognized.

ALDF is using the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to enforce animal-centric protections already well accepted in our legal system. The ESA grants endangered species—which includes all chimpanzees—the right to “normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.” In Candy’s current situation at Dixie Landin’, she is denied these rights—as her living conditions and isolation are completely unnatural.

Candy and Other Captive Animals

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Although Candy lives a solitary life at Dixie Landin’, she is not alone in her suffering as a wild animal kept in captivity. Many wild animals in captivity are used for “entertainment,” though some are also considered “pets.” Illegal trafficking in rare and exotic wild animals is a $10-$20 billion-a-year business, the profits of which come at the expense of broken families and countless injured and/or dead animals.

Wild animals often suffer greatly in captivity because they are placed in utterly foreign habitats—obviously a metal cage and a concrete floor is unnatural living for virtually every species, but even changes in climate, topography, and flora and fauna can put wild animals under physical and psychological strain. Captive animals typically live much shorter lives than their wild counterparts: for example, captive orcas have about one-third the average lifespan as wild orcas, who can live to be more than 100 years old!

ALDF has worked on behalf of numerous captive animals. Ben the Bear lived most of his life in a tiny cage at a roadside zoo in Fayetteville, NC, his “habitat” being metal and concrete, much like Candy’s. In 2012, a district court judge signed a permanent injunction that allowed Ben to relocate to the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in California. ALDF also helped to win the freedom of another bear, Ricky, who lived in a cage at an ice cream shop in Pennsylvania for 16 years. Tony the tiger, who lives in a cage at a gas station in Louisiana, is another high-profile case for ALDF’s efforts to protect captive animals from inhumane treatment.

How You Can Help Free Candy

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Now that the new classification of captive chimpanzees under the ESA is in effect, ALDF has filed a lawsuit to free Candy from her life behind bars. Your support enables us to pursue litigation to free wild animals like Candy. If ALDF’s lawsuit is successful, Candy will get to enjoy a new home in a naturalistic enclosure that is suited to her physical, behavioral, and psychological needs, with expert veterinary care.

You can also help to free Candy! The public can urge Samuel Haynes, Jr., and Dixie Landin’ amusement park to do the right thing and allow Candy to live out her days at a sanctuary by contacting Dixie Landin’ through their website.

Every wild animal deserves to live a life of freedom, which makes the experiences of Candy and other captive wild animals so painful. No amount of enrichment can make up for the autonomy they have lost. But by pushing for proper enforcement of existing laws like the ESA and AWA, it is possible for Candy and other captive animals to live in much more humane conditions than those they typically experience as “objects” of human entertainment.

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