ALDF Files Suit Against Hollywood Chimpanzee “Trainer” in Federal Court

Posted on November 18, 2005

Riverside, Ca. – Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), along with the Chimpanzee Collaboratory and three other plaintiffs, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court this morning against Hollywood chimpanzee “trainer” Sid Yost for violating the Endangered Species Act and the California anti-cruelty statute by subjecting the chimpanzees in his possession to extreme pain and suffering. Co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including primatologist Sarah Baeckler, who worked with Yost for more than a year, have witnessed him repeatedly abuse several chimpanzees by violently beating them with sticks, punching them with his fists, and inflicting excessive pain on them in order to force them to perform for movie and television appearances.

In its complaint to rescue the chimpanzees Apollo, Sable, Cody, and Angel from their frequent abuse at the hands of Yost, ALDF is claiming that by physically injuring animals listed as “threatened” by the Endangered Species Act, Yost is in direct violation of the Act. ALDF will also argue that Yost is in violation of the California anti-cruelty statute and of the federal Animal Welfare Act, which states that “[h]andling of all animals shall be done…in a manner that does not cause trauma,…behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort.” Further, two of the chimpanzees currently in the defendant’s possession at a facility in San Bernardino were stolen from his former employer, Amazing Animal Actors, a co-plaintiff in the suit. Amazing Animal Actors intends to retire the chimpanzees when they are rightfully returned.

Yost, who also goes by the stage name “Ranger Rick,” has been fined and placed on probation repeatedly in the past for animal-related offenses, including a $2,000 fine from the USDA in 2002 when one chimpanzee bit a boy attending his show in Ventura County and a $1,000 fine from the California Department of Fish and Game for illegal possession of a lion cub. The four chimpanzees have appeared in numerous movies, commercials and TV spots, including “That ’70s Show” and “The Craig Kilborn Show.” After Baeckler, of the Chimpanzee Collaboratory, released information about what she had seen working as a volunteer with Yost, numerous members of the Hollywood community, including Alec Baldwin, Pamela Anderson, and Bob Barker, signed a pledge never to appear onscreen with a chimpanzee.

“Eyewitness testimony will prove that Yost uses vicious beatings and intimidation to force terrified chimpanzees to perform in the spotlight,” states ALDF attorney Bruce Wagman. “It is unconscionable–and illegal–for him to abuse our closest relatives for our viewing pleasure and his profit. ALDF will see to it that these animals will no longer suffer the pain and fear of being subjected to his cruel ‘training’ techniques.”

  • ALDF and Sidney Yost have reached a settlement of all litigation between them, with both sides denying the other’s allegations and neither side admitting any liability. For additional information, click this link.