A Facebook meme focusing on a young white-bellied spider monkey named Brodi that lost his life late Friday night is making its way across Facebook. The owner, Jacob Ruehlman, had the monkey in his vehicle while stopping at a Chevrolet dealership in Vermillion, Erie county, Ohio.
According to the petition on change.org: "On Tuesday January 14th, 2014 at a car dealership in Northeastern Ohio, Brodi the Spider Monkey was sitting inside of a car with his owner. An employee of the dealership approached the vehicle and reached inside to pet Brodi. Understandably, this frightened Brodi. Out of fear Brodi nipped the man leaving a pin-sized puncture on his thumb. The bite was very minor and did not require stitches." It goes on to tell more of the story as told by the petitioner.
The passing of SB 310 made public contact with certain exotics illegal in Ohio. Transportation rules also apply since the news regulations have been in place. Mr. Ruehlman had jointly registered Brodi with another Ohio owner due to health problems, according to some, which is where Brodi was found after the incident - in Union county. Brodi had been under quarantine there since the bite on Tuesday with a follow-up veterinary visit scheduled in February. Documentation proving a rabies vaccine was given to the monkey by a veterinarian sometime in the past two years was provided to the authorities involved in his confiscation. The primate was legally registered as per Ohio law and likely a pending application for a permit, as per state requirement.
The owner was clearly in violation of the new law regardless of whether the man bitten was given permission to pet the primate or not. Oftentimes animals bite out of fear, including fear of unknown people reaching toward them even if no harm is intended. The exotic animal owning community seems divided about supporting the owner, with the non-support of the owner more heavily represented. The sadness over Brodi being unnecessarily killed for rabies testing is apparent across both supporters and non-supporters of the owner. A previous alleged theft, still pending in court, of two gibbons from another owner in Nebraska caused most exotic owners to show no sympathy toward Ruehlman for the loss of the much loved pet.
Non-human primates do not have an approved rabies vaccine as commonly known for domestic dogs and cats. There is evidence and research proving simple blood testing (instead of decapitation) and the effectiveness of a rabies vaccine for non-human primates. Ohio state health code allows for the choice of quarantine or euthanasia to test the brain for evidence of rabies in any animal. The choice was made by the Erie county health director to euthanize even though it is said he agreed to call the laboratory doing blood sample testing the next morning. Instead, Brodi was dead by midnight, Friday night, after being confiscated from his place of quarantine at 8pm.
With no non-human primate documented as having rabies since 1911, it easy to understand why many are angry over the euthanasia of a healthy, young spider monkey. The statement released by the Erie county health department has left many questioning whether it was a true risk needing tested in this manner, or a show of power by the state of Ohio since the passing of SB 310. Brodi's test results came back as negative, in less than 24 hours.