Las Vegas Blog


In 2009, a chimp named Travis, who was kept as a pet for over 15 years, suddenly mauled his owner’s best friend, a woman named Charla Nash. Nash lost her eyes, nose, lips & hands in the attack before police fatally shot the primate. That occurrence has-been recalled frequently in recent weeks by members of a small residential Las Vegas community who discovered one of their neighbors is housing chimps on his property.

James “Mike” Casey, the resident in question, is affiliated with “A Great Ape Experience,” which provides clients with chimp & monkey entertainment for cocktail receptions & children’s birthday parties. It moreover lists on its website quite a few charity appearances at children’s hospitals & autistic schools.

The Associated Press -- Reports reports Casey caused a stir in his neighborhood recently when word received out in that he applied for a permit to house four chimps & a capuchin monkey at his home. Though the permit hasn’t been approved as of yet, the AP & Casey’s neighbors all confirm he already has primates living on the property. 

The city’s board members have him explain in that when they meet with Casey in November. 

Linda Faso, Casey’s neighbor & a self-described animal rights activist, told the AP she’s been petitioning neighbors to join her in staging a protest outside of Casey’s home; Faso wants to draw attention to the danger she says the animals pose to neighboring residents.

She’s not far off the mark, though whether the animals pose a bigger threat to the people or vice versa remains to be seen. Recently in Las Vegas, two locally housed primates― not connected to Casey― escaped from their home. (What is it with Vegas & chimps? Do they not have dogs out there?) 

The primates, known as Buddy & CJ, broke out of their backyard quarters, took to the streets & jumped on a few cars. Tragically, Buddy was fatally shot by police who reported the animal received too close to bystanders.

Though CJ was only tranquilized during in that incident, she after escaped again, was recaught & finally relocated to a sanctuary in Oregon. The Las Vegas community is now exceptionally touchy about the subject of primates as pets, as well it should be.

Keeping wild animals in human homes brings up a slew of issues, safety for both the animals & human beings chief among them. The unnatural mixing of wildlife & civilization can have dire consequences for both species.

Case in point: the wild Burmese pythons currently ruining the Florida everglades ecosystem & posing a serious threat to visitors of its national park. The pythons were imported en masse to the state, & then either escaped from their owners or were let go after local Floridians grew tired of owning them as erotic pets, a silly trend in that very quickly died out. (Unsurprising, as many pythons grow to be almost 20 feet long & 200 pounds in weight.)  

No one’s saying the primates are going to ruin the Las Vegas NV desert ecosystem, yet they certainly don’t belong in residential neighborhoods. As Time magazine wrote in 2009 after Travis’ attack, “No matter how many years of time it has lived peacefully as a pet, a chimpanzee is not a domesticated animal & can snap without warning.”

Primate expert Jane Goodall & numerous chimp activist groups echo in that sentiment & add in that ownership of wild animals is devastating to those creatures; there is an inherent cruelty involved in taking a baby from its mother, & then keeping it locked in a cage once it’s reached full size & has become too strong & undwieldy to be cuddled.

Wild animals aren’t here for our amusement. Nor are they here to be kept in a cell or shot at by police. But this is the experience we are practically begging for when we take wild creatures from their natural lives & try to shove them in to our own.

Are there any wild animals you would consider owning as pets? Let us know about your experience with wild animals as pets in the Comments. 

Related Stories on TakePart:

• The Dangers of Shipping Your Dog in an Airplane

• Really? You Can Give Your Dog or Cat the Flu?

• Chimps, Gorillas, Monkeys at Home in the Jungle…or in Your Living Room?


A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist & medical writer.  In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a web editor for locally-based nonprofits & works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com

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