The Case Of The Killer Chimp

On a day when bank nationalization, the stimulus, hundreds of billions of dollars in new spending, and the Roland Burris scandal were all in the news, it was a bit of a surprise to head over to the Drudge Report and see the “killer chimp” story as the headliner.

However, this is one of those rare stories that is horrifically fascinating, doesn’t necessarily break down on party lines, and presents a lot of different angles to discuss.

First off, here’s a very concise rundown of what happened,

The owner of a 200lb (90kg) chimpanzee that began mauling a woman begged police to “Hurry, please! He ripped her face off”.

Police in Connecticut released tapes of Sandra Herold’s phone call to police on Monday as her chimp, Travis, attacked Charla Nash, 55.

The chimp can be heard grunting as Ms Herold cries: “He’s killing my friend … He ripped her apart! Shoot him!” When police arrive, an officer radios back: “We’ve got to get this guy out of here. He’s got no face.”

The chimp kept attacking Ms Nash as Ms Herold, 70, stabbed it and hit it with a shovel. “He looked at me like, ‘Mom, what did you do?'” Ms Herold told NBC’s Today Show. “It was horrific what happened and I had to do what I had to do, but still, I’ll miss him for the rest of my life.”

Ms Nash was in a critical condition yesterday with injuries to her face and hands. Police said they are looking into laying criminal charges.

Police said the chimp had been agitated on Monday and Ms Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. Emil Coccaro, the chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Centre, said Xanax could make unstable humans aggressive.

Ms Nash had gone to Ms Herold’s home to help her coax the chimp back into the house after he got out. It lunged at her when she arrived and then ran away but returned and went after several police officers, who retreated into their cars. One officer shot 15-year-old Travis after the animal started to get into his car. The chimp, which starred in TV adverts, retreated to the house and died.

Obviously, your sympathy has to first go to Charla Nash, an innocent victim whose injuries were absolutely staggering,

The doctors treating Charla Nash, the woman who was savagely attacked by a friend’s chimpanzee on Monday, said that she showed small signs progress on Wednesday after undergoing more than seven hours of surgery on her face and hands by four teams of surgeons in Stamford, Conn.

“While she remains in critical but stable condition, her vital signs are improving,” Dr. Kevin Miller, an attending surgeon at Stamford Hospital, said at a news conference. “We are thankful that we are able to report that Charla Nash has made good but small progress.”

Scott Orstad, a spokesman for the hospital, said in an interview that her vital signs were “a huge positive for someone who had the amount of surgery she had within the first 72 hours.”

“She’s still not out of the woods yet,” he said, “but she’s improving.”

Ms. Nash had gone to the Stamford house of the friend, Sandra Herold, to help calm Ms. Herold’s 14-year-old pet chimpanzee, Travis, when the animal attacked. Mr. Orstad said that Ms. Nash’s family was consulting with her doctors on what steps to take next. One option might be a face transplant, but he said that decision had not been made.

A FACE TRANSPLANT — and there are some reports that the chimp actually bit off both of her hands. What can you even say about injuries that bad other than praying that she makes as full a recovery as possible?

That being said, I do feel a twinge of pity for Sandra Herold as well.

Before I get into that, let me note that I do not think that anyone should be keeping a dangerous wild animal like that chimp as a pet. I don’t care how intelligent, sweet natured, or seemingly well trained the animal seems, if it’s not domesticated and it’s capable of hurting a human being, it shouldn’t be roaming free in someone’s house.

That was certainly the case with this chimp, although it’s very easy for me, thee, and everyone else to say that AFTER something like this has happened. The day before this attack, when Sandra Herold could have said, “I’ve had the chimp for 15 years and it has never hurt anyone,” I tend to think a large majority of people would have incorrectly concluded that it wasn’t dangerous.

I have no doubt that is what Sandra Herold thought. She treated that chimp practically like a child, trained it, and after that 15 year record of safety, she surely believed that there was no way it would ever go berserk in the fashion that it did.

That’s why I do have some small amount of sympathy for Sandra Herold. Her friend was savagely mauled because of her. Her pet, which she had raised like a child may have been errantly trying to protect her and you can be sure she will remember both the gory damage done to her friend and the look in her pet’s eyes when she knifed him for the rest of her life.

Sandra Herold is not an evil or malicious woman and she actually showed some decisive bravery when her friend was in trouble. Was she irresponsible to keep a chimp as a pet? Yes, but again, it’s very easy for everyone to be a Monday morning quarterback at this point.

So, should Herold face criminal charges? Given the situation, it could go either way, but honestly, I don’t think Herold belongs in jail for this. Now, civil charges? That’s a different matter. She kept a wild animal as a pet and Charla Nash will never be the same as a result. The financial penalties for that should be rather large.

All in all, it’s a sad case, but one that people can hopefully learn from. If you’re keeping a potentially dangerous wild animal as a pet, it’s time to reconsider that decision.

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