A victim of a horrific chimp attack that nearly claimed her life, a Stamford woman is now pressing Congress to pass new laws that would make it more difficult for an average person to keep a primate as a pet in their home. On Thursday, she appeared in Washington to make her plea, and her story of being brutally mauled by her friend's pet chimp certainly had the attention of those on Capitol Hill.
Reports NBC Connecticut on July 10: “Charla Nash, who lost her nose, lips, eyelids and hands after she was mauled by her employer's 200-pound pet chimpanzee in 2009, said people who buy baby chimps would be wrong to think they will be harmless, childlike companions.”
Nash, blind, disfigured and left without hands, has endured years of countless surgeries. In 2011, she received a total face transplant. Before and after photos of Nash reveal the extent of her horrendous injuries.
“I'm here today to make sure that what happened to me never happens to anyone else. In 2009, I was attacked and mauled by my boss' chimp, Travis. He ripped off my face, hands and doctors were able to salvage my thumb and sew it on sideways,” Nash said on Thursday. “You don't know this, but I contracted a disease from Travis in my eyes, and doctors had to remove it and that's why I'm blind today.”
Nash was joined by officials from the The Humane Society of the United States and together, they spoke of their support for the Captive Primates Safety Act – a bill introduced back in 2007, before Nash was mauled, that never made it to the Senate floor. In 2009, Senator Mark Kirk (R – Illinois) reintroduced the bill after Nash’s widely publicized ordeal. The bill stipulates that primates would be a prohibited wildlife species, ruling out personal ownership.
Approximately 25 states prohibit people from keeping some or all primates as pets. But John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy at the Humane Society, said buyers can skirt those laws by purchasing primates from exotic animal breeders they find online or at large exotic animal auctions. Infant chimpanzees can sell for about $5,000 apiece.
Goodwin said there is no accurate count of how many primates are currently being kept as pets in the U.S. because there is little regulation of the exotic pet industry. But Goodwin calls 15,000 a “best guess.” And some of those animals have been involved in violent occurrences.
“There have been several primate attacks on human beings documented in the news over the past couple of decades. And those are just the ones that make the news,” Goodwin said.
Nash had been seeking the right to sue the state of Connecticut for over 100 million dollars, stating that the state should be held liable because the pet was known to be potentially dangerous and was being kept by Nash’s friend, who died in 2010, without a permit. However, the Connecticut General Assembly denied Nash the ability to sue.
Nash reiterated that she is hoping her continued support for legislation will ensure that what happened to her “never happens to anyone else ever again.”