Madison County seeks custody of monkey who bit 6-year-old

News-DemocratJune 27, 2013 

Madison County is seeking custody of Nina the monkey, and will go to court Friday to argue for her.

Nina, a java macaque, has been in the spotlight since June 2 when she bit a 6-year-old boy at a pet festival in Godfrey. She attacked the boy when he was petting her owner's dog, according to police reports.

The boy was treated for bite marks and scratches, and his family elected to have him undergo precautionary treatment for rabies as an alternative to having Nina put down.

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said the woman who had brought Nina to the annual "Bark in the Park" event did not have legal ownership of her, nor did the previous owner. Private ownership of primates has been forbidden in Illinois since 2011, with few exceptions.

The problem was that Madison County Animal Control did not have the proper facilities for primates, Gibbons said. So the county temporarily elected to place Nina with a local resident who was licensed to keep primates, until a proper home could be found for her.

However, Gibbons said they have learned that the temporary caretaker sent Nina out of state 10 days ago without notifying the county. They believe the monkey is now in Indiana, he said.

So Gibbons filed a petition for the county to take legal custody of Nina. While the quarantine period since the bite expired, Gibbons said the county's goal is to find a good home for Nina - in a primate sanctuary or zoo, not a private home.

"We have been talking to the St. Louis Zoo, hoping to arrange safe sanctuary for her," Gibbons said.

Nina actually may not end up in the zoo, Gibbons said, but the zoo's specialists are helping them find a primate sanctuary that could be a permanent home for Nina. According to the court filing, the zoo agreed to retrieve Nina and transport her to an appropriate facility, but cannot do so unless the court rules that the state owns her.

Gibbons will argue the petition Friday afternoon in Madison County Circuit Court.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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