Hollywood Chimpanzees on the Road to Sanctuaries After Settlement in Lawsuit Against Their “Trainer”

Posted on December 7, 2006

Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Federal Suit against Sid “Ranger Rick” Yost Ends in Settlement Mandating Retirement of His Allegedly Abused Chimpanzees

San Bernardino, Calif. – Sable, Cody, and Angel–three chimpanzees at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) against their Hollywood “trainer,” Sid Yost–are headed for retirement after a settlement in the year-long lawsuit, which alleged that Yost violated the Endangered Species Act and the California anti-cruelty statute by subjecting them to violent beatings in order to force them to perform for movie and television appearances. The chimpanzees will be leaving Yost’s operation in San Bernardino this Saturday, when they’ll be buckled in to a special transport truck that will take them to sanctuaries in New Mexico and Florida, where each will be reunited with long-lost members of their biological families. A fourth chimpanzee, Apollo, who was also named in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in November 2005, allegedly received a fatal rattlesnake bite in July while in his cage at the San Bernardino facility.

Co-plaintiffs, including primatologist Sarah Baeckler, who worked alongside Yost, witnessed him beating the animals with sticks, punching them, and inflicting pain in order to force them to perform. 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. Yost has been one of the major providers of chimpanzees for Hollywood film and television productions, including That ’70s Show, The Craig Kilborn Show, and the upcoming feature film Evan Almighty, the high-budget sequel to Bruce Almighty. After being notified about ALDF’s suit against Yost when a short film “starring” one of his chimpanzees won the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award contest last year, the Coca-Cola Company amended their contest rules to ban the use of primates in future film submissions. Yost continues to deny the allegations against him.

“It is an amazing culmination to this story for these chimpanzees and, frankly, one that we hardly dared to hope for,” states ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. “These chimpanzees will get to live out their lives free from the terror of the kinds of violent abuse that animals in the entertainment industry endure.”

B-roll and photographs of the chimpanzee transfer will be available upon request.

*The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Chimpanzee Collaboratory and three other plaintiffs have reached a settlement with Hollywood animal trainer Sidney Yost in the Federal action filed on November 18, 2005. The settlement will include the retirement of three chimpanzees, Cody, Angel and Sable, to a chimpanzee sanctuary pursuant to the recommendations of noted primatologist Roger Fouts and the appointment of Dr. Fouts as the chimpanzees’ guardian. This settlement was the result of a compromise of both sides in an effort to put aside differences and do what is best for the chimpanzees and neither the plaintiffs nor Yost admit liability in this matter.

Statement of Settlement

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