The Tragic Case of Joe the Monkey

On Tuesday, February 1, 2011 a little black capped Capuchin  monkey named, Joe was needlessly and heartlessly euthanized in Rockingham County, after biting a woman in Reidsville, North Carolina.  I just want to express my deep sadness, anger and disgust at how the director of the Rockingham County Health Department  and the State Veterinarian and Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page handled the situation.  The monkey apparently had been left in the care of the woman by the grandson of the original owner, who never came back to reclaim it.  The monkey bit the woman while she was changing it’s water bowl and it tried to escape.  Instead of being kept up for observation and then, after a reasonable length of time,  sent to a humane rescue facility, the monkey was heartlessly euthanized.  I realize the monkey was classified technically as a wild animal, but it had been kept as a pet all its life, and the chance of that monkey having rabies was slim to none.  Instead of being euthanized, that poor little frightened monkey should have been kept in quarrantine, observed by someone who knows and understands monkey behavior and then, after a reasonable length of time handed over to a rescue group.  The monkey was in a strange environment, scared and just trying to get out when it bit the woman.  I’m told that It also had bitten some other people…well, it is a well known fact that monkeys do bite.  That’s just the way it is.  Monkeys are subject to sudden and violent mood swings.  People have no business having monkeys for pets to start with, but that poor little monkey also should not have been held responsible and murdered because of doing what came naturally to it to protect itself.  It was the victim here.  Did Glenn Martin, the Rockingham County, NC Health Department Director or the North Carolina State Veterinarian, Dr. David Marshall even bother to get all the facts before making such a judgement?  And, what of Sheriff Sam Page’s involvement in all this? 

If this had been a raccoon or skunk running wild, I would have no qualms with what they did, but that little monkey was not running free outside.    It was IN A CAGE.  If by some strange, almost impossible coincidence, something had somehow gotten to it and bitten it, wouldn’t there have been some evidence of that?  It is very rare for a primate to even contract rabies.  There have been only 11 such cases in US history.  There was one case that  happened in 1911, but that monkey had been bitten by a rabid dog.  There has never been a case in the U.S. of monkey to human rabies transmission.  The monkey in Reidsville was a victim of bureaucratic idiocy and ignorance, and a total lack of compassion. I have found out that euthanizing monkeys who bite,  regardless of the circumstances, seems to be the usual procedure in this country…well, that procedure needs to change.  Even a criminal deserves a fair trial.  This was a horrible, horrible thing.  The image of that little monkey drinking from a baby bottle on one of the tv news stories is burned into my memory and will haunt me for the rest of my life.

 If I had known what they were planning to do, I would have done everything in my power to save that monkey. but they all acted so quickly, secretly and with no compassion and common sense whatsoever.  I state emphatically again, the guidelines and procedures for dealing with situations like this where there is little chance of rabies exposure need to be changed and NOW, before another senseless tragedy like this happens.

Oh, and incidently, the excuse usually given in cases like this, is that it has not been proven that Rabies vaccine works for monkeys.  The ironic thing is, we do know at least the human rabies vaccine works in monkeys because it was tested on monkeys before being used on humans.   It just hasn’t been approved for use on them by the FDA.

An interesting footnote to this story.  I was so angry when I found out about Joe the monkey, I emailed PETA thinking that although it was too late to save his life, at least they might send a chastising email to the officials involved.  The woman at PETA said to me in a return email, “that little monkey is better off dead.”  I starred at the words in disbelief…”BETTER OFF DEAD” than in a loving home or safe sanctuary?  Up until that time, I had respected PETA’s mission and work, but when she told me that, it was a turning point for me; I began to look at them in an entirely new light.  PETA truly does not care about the lives of individual animals…only their “rights” which is whatever PETA says their rights are.