HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut woman blinded and disfigured by a chimpanzee attack will visit Washington this week to urge the passage of rules to make it harder to keep primates as pets.
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.
"There are many people that know nothing about myself and what happened. The more awareness is made, the better off people will be," Nash told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Nash, whose eyes were surgically removed after the attack, said chimpanzees "are not the type of animal that anyone should keep as a pet. They're just too wild and dangerous when they get older."
Nash, who underwent face transplant surgery in 2011, is scheduled to appear at a news conference on Thursday in Washington with representatives of The Humane Society of the United States to press Congress to support the Captive Primates Safety Act. She is also meeting with congressional staff to discuss the legislation, which has previously passed the U.S. House. It would amend the Lacey Act by adding "nonhuman primates" to the list of animals that cannot be traded or transported across state lines as pets. Currently, the Lacey Act puts such restrictions on big cats, such as lions and tigers.
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.