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Nash: Captive primate safety act is long overdue

By Carla Nash
Sept. 12, 2014 at 11 p.m.


My name is Charla Nash. You may remember when I was brutally attacked by a pet chimpanzee five years ago in Stamford, Connecticut. I don't remember a single thing from that day, but I will live the rest of my life with the consequences of what I was told occurred.

My boss, Sandra Herold, owned a 200-pound pet chimpanzee named Travis. On that day in February, I went to my boss's house, and when I stepped out of my car, Travis viciously and brutally attacked me, ripping off my hands, nose, eyelids, mouth and most of the bony structure in my mid-face. As a consequence of the attack, I contracted a zoonotic disease that resulted in my eyes being surgically removed in order to stop the infection - leaving me blind. Today, I continue on a long road to recovery, which has involved numerous surgeries, including a full face transplant.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, I am sharing my story and urging U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and other federal lawmakers to pass the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would prohibit the interstate commerce in chimpanzees, monkeys and other primates for the exotic pet trade.

Travis was bred in Missouri and brought to Connecticut as a baby to be kept as a private pet. If the act had been in place at the time Travis was purchased, the incident that changed my life forever would never have happened and would simply be material for a horror movie.

It shouldn't take a disastrous event like this to bring change. The case against primates as pets is founded not only on Travis's attack on me, but also on what we've known to be scientifically true for many years. Primates are inherently wild and unpredictable; even the smallest monkey species are incredibly strong and can inflict serious injuries with their teeth or nails, including puncture wounds, severe lacerations and infections. They inevitably become aggressive, unpredictable and territorial as they mature.

This is compounded by the fact primates are extremely intelligent and have complex social, physical and psychological needs. They lead busy, active, stimulating lives and most are highly social and naturally live in pairs or family groups with whom they travel, groom, play, build nests, sleep and raise their offspring.

In captivity, they are abused and neglected, and I saw that firsthand with Travis. He was lonely and unhappy. I have no ill will toward Travis; I just want the trade in these dangerous animals to stop so no one else will suffer like I have and so the animals won't be forced into inappropriate situations as pets.

I am calling on Congress to take action and support the Captive Primate Safety Act. I am asking legislators to consider the lonely, unnatural life Travis and other primates kept as pets are forced to endure and the danger that this poses for them and for humans. I am asking them to reflect on that day in February that changed my life forever, and to realize they have the power to ensure no one else ever faces a raging chimpanzee.

Every day I live with this nightmare. I am blind. I have no hands to feed myself. I still have an open wound in my head from the day Travis attacked me. Every day I wish I could have my old life back, but I know I can only move forward. The time to act is now. Please enact this long-overdue legislation to save countless animals from abuse and neglect and to make sure there are no more victims like me.

<em>- Charla Nash is a Connecticut resident.</em>

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