Was chimp owner warned of danger?

February 25, 2009 4:18:31 PM PST
The founder of a primate rescue sanctuary said Wednesday that she warned a Connecticut woman years ago that her pet chimpanzee was a "ticking time bomb." [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

April Truitt, who runs the Primate Rescue Center in Kentucky, said she took it upon herself to warn chimp owner Sandra Herold of the dangers of keeping the animal in her home after she heard of its escape in 2003.

The 200-pound chimp, named Travis, attacked and critically injured 55-year-old Charla Nash last week as she tried to help Herold lure the animal back into a house. Nash remains hospitalized with massive injuries to her hands and face.

Police shot and killed the chimp shortly after the attack. Its remains were cremated Wednesday.

Police have not said if they will file charges against Herold. Her lawyer, Joe Gerardi, declined to comment Wednesday.

Authorities said they don't know why the chimp attacked. Herold has speculated that Travis was trying to protect her from Nash, who arrived at the house with an unfamiliar hairstyle and car.

"Travis was a ticking time bomb, and keeping him in the house and trying to domesticate him was a really, really bad idea and he wasn't going to put up with it forever," Truitt said.

She said she pleaded with Herold to consider placing the chimp in a sanctuary, but Herold was not interested, saying: "You don't know my Travis."

Truitt said Herold insisted that Travis couldn't live without her or in the company of other chimps.

Truitt, whose sanctuary has more than 50 primates, including 11 chimps, estimates there are 230 privately owned chimps in the United States. She said she didn't know Herold personally and never met Travis.

A former animal control officer, said last week that she also warned Herold after the 2003 incident that the pet's behavior was worrisome and she needed to keep it under control. Two other people have said that Travis bit them, in 1996 and 1998.

Nash had surgery in Connecticut before being transferred last week to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, which performed the nation's first face transplant in December. Doctors have not said if she will be a candidate for such a procedure.

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