ALDF Calls for Investigation in the Death of Chimpanzee Named in Lawsuit Against His ‘Trainer’

Posted on September 3, 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

Fax: 970-494-7355

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.

Sincerely,

Stephen Wells

Executive Director

cc: Ryan Broddick

Director

California Department of Fish and Game

1416 Ninth Street

Sacramento, CA 95814

Fax: 916-653-1856

Statement of Settlement