Woman fighting for chimps after ruling favors PETA

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A Missouri woman is fighting to keep her seven chimps after an 8th Circuit Court judge ruled that they be handed over to PETA, an organization that claims to stand for animal rights.

Tonia Haddix’s chimp sanctuary is located near Festus, Missouri. She owns seven chimps, whom PETA wants to move to a new facility. (Photo courtesy of Cassandra Fairbanks.)

Tonia Haddix, who cares for the chimpanzees at a Festus animal shelter called Missouri Primate Foundation, is standing in defiance of a court order handed down by US District Judge Catherine D. Perry, which requires Haddix to hand over the chimps to PETA. According to Cassandra Fairbanks of The Gateway Pundit, PETA filed a lawsuit against the previous owner at the foundation for violating the Endangered Species Act.

According to Fairbanks’ reporting, private primate ownership is a controversial issue. People will rescue primates for breeding purposes, being that the natural habitats of chimps around the planet are being destroyed. Others will adopt chimps to have as companions. Primate ownership also has a bad side, Fairbanks said. Haddix took ownership of the chimps at MPF from Connie Casey, another Missouri woman who oversaw the foundation before Haddix took over operations there. This is what provoked PETA’s litigation against MPF.

PETA claimed that Casey was in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The violation, PETA claimed, was breeding zoo animals and using them for commercial purposes, such as starring in movies. Fairbanks reported that the chimps at MPF starred in major motion pictures such as “George of the Jungle,” “MVP: Most Valuable Primate,” and “Buddy.”

PETA is demanding that Haddix hand over four of the seven chimps. The nonprofit intends to transport the four chimps to a wildlife refuge in Wauchula, Florida, called the Center for Great Apes. According to its own website, the Center for Great Apes has a vision “to one day see all captive great apes live in a community of care and compassion without the threat of exploitation, experimentation, abuse, or neglect … until there is no need for sanctuary rescue.”

Haddix inherited the chimps after PETA filed its lawsuit against Casey. When ownership of the chimps were transferred to Haddix, PETA only included her name in its litigation. The chimp owner has tried in the past to have the lawsuit resolved. She filed a motion in March 2020 to have the case dismissed, which was denied by Perry. It’s another case of a person feeling perceived unfair treatment from the US Courts system.

Then it became seven

In the latest twist in this saga, Perry has ordered Haddix to hand over all seven chimps to PETA. This is a ruling that Haddix has vowed to fight.

“They’re going to have to bring sheriffs, and they’re going to have to bring everything they can,” Haddix told local media. “They’re not getting the chimps. They’re not getting them. Now I’ve decided I’m keeping all of them, just for the principle of the matter, because they don’t deserve the chimps.”

Haddix is currently in contempt of the order. She is being fined $50 per day that PETA is disallowed access to the chimps. In addition, she is required to continue to care for the chimps until PETA actually arrives to get them. The cost to care for one chimp is several tens of thousands of dollars per year. She is not allowed to breed the chimps.

Perry had decreed last October that Haddix hand over four of the chimps, named Tammy, Connor, Candy and Kerry. Haddix was permitted to keep Crystal, Mikayla and Tonka. Haddix told local media around that same time that she was planning to build a new primate facility in Stoddard County, Missouri, where the three chimps ordered to remain in her care are expected to live.

One of the chimps, Tonka, passed recently from heart failure. According to Fairbanks’ reporting, Tonka was seen by Casey Talbot, DVM, who is employed by Fair Grove Veterninary Service in Missouri. Talbot graduated from veterinary school in 2021, according to his employment bio.

Talbot wrote in an affidavit that he examined the male chimp, who Talbot said was showing signs of congenital heart failure when the examination took place. Talbot said he had discussed euthanasia with Haddix during the time leading up to Tonka’s death. Talbot also wrote to the court that two other chimps, Crystal and Makayla, were not socialized with other chimps, and moving them to a new facility where they would be integrated into a new community could cause serious injury to themselves and/or other chimps.

When Perry first issued a ruling in this case, Haddix was ordered to hire a full-time chimp caregiver and construct a new space that meets certain construction standards. Haddix said the construction of a new space is underway, according to Fairbanks’ reporting.

Haddix told reporters that she contacted more than 80 attorneys to take her case. All of them declined. After this most recent ruling, she now is being represented by John Pierce, an attorney who is known for representing conservative political and public figures.

Haddix is being fined $50 per day for each day she keeps her chimpanzees. Her battle with PETA continues.

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