HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An out-of-control chimpanzee that mauled a Connecticut woman in 2009 escaped from his cage five months earlier, prompting his owner to ask that he be shot with a tranquilizer gun, legal papers show.
Marcella Leone, owner of a private zoo in Greenwich, testified in a deposition that Sandra Herold, owner of Travis the chimpanzee, called to tell her he needed to be restrained, according to The Hartford Courant (http://cour.at/ORXpTC).
Nobody got hurt in that incident. But lawyers for Charla Nash of Stamford, who was blinded in the attack and has had several surgeries including a face transplant, say the 2008 phone message was one of several warnings ignored by state officials. Police fatally shot the chimpanzee during the Feb. 16, 2009, attack.
A hearing is scheduled for Friday on whether Nash may sue the state for $150 million in claimed damages. Nash plans to attend.
Leone said in her deposition that she was so concerned about Herold's 2008 phone message that she called a state Department of Environmental Protection official, Elaine Hinsch, whose responsibilities included regulating ownership of wild animals.
"To show her how serious the situation was, I played the answering machine recording so she could hear it," Leone said.
Hinsch wrote a memo to two other DEP officials about a month later, saying that the chimp was "an accident waiting to happen" if he remained at Herold's home. The situation remained unchanged before the 2009 attack.
State Attorney General George Jepsen says the state should not be held liable for the mauling. He has acknowledged Hinsch's warning about the chimp but said state law on the issue was ambiguous and difficult to enforce, and there was no guarantee a court hearing would have led to a seizure order.
Information from: The Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com