Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday that he believed the owner of a chimpanzee in Stamford was \”fully compliant\’\’ with the law before the 200-pound animal later mauled a Stamford woman who is now blind.
The remarks were Malloy\’s first public comments since the publication of a detailed article in Sunday\’s Hartford Courant on the case of Charla Nash, who is recovering from a face transplant after being attacked in February 2009 by Travis the Chimp in Stamford. Nash had traveled to the North Stamford home of her friend, Sandra Herold, to try to help her after being told that the chimpanzee had become unruly. Malloy was the mayor of Stamford at the time of the attack.
\”I knew what lots of people knew in Stamford - that this family had a chimpanzee and I think, like everybody else in Stamford, assumed that they were fully compliant with the law,\’\’ Malloy told reporters at the state Capitol. \”I certainly did not know that the chimp offered any special danger other than its existence. And again, I think, like a lot of people, just thought that they were compliant with the law.\’\’
\”There was one incident where the chimp got out of a car and took a while to get back into the car, and I was aware of that – as everybody who read The Stamford Advocate would have been aware,\’\’ Malloy said.
After the chimp had escaped in downtown Stamford and caused a commotion in 2003, Malloy said that he never went to the owner to tell her that the chimp would be taken away if it escaped again.
\”Absolutely not,\’\’ Malloy said in response to The Courant. \”I used to do something called Mayor\’s Night In, Mayor\’s Night Out. Over the course of 12 or 14 years, she came a few times – never to talk about the chimpanzee. She always came to talk. She was a service provider to the city of Stamford – a towing service. That was the family business. From time to time, the city would express its frustration with how that service was being offered, and from time to time, she would come to Mayor\’s Night to defend her operation. That\’s what those discussions were about.\’\’
The incident in October 2003 was photographed at the time as the chimpanzee continuously eluded the Stamford police for several hours. The chimp, who was nine years old at the time, had been wearing a diaper and escaped from the family\’s sport utility vehicle on a Sunday night. The incident prompted a police response of more than 10 patrol cars as officers tried to corral the unruly chimp as he sometimes charged at the uniformed police. The police at the time said that no charges would be filed, and a high-ranking state environmental official, David Leff, said that no permit was necessary for the animal.
The city\’s animal control officer, Lynn DellaBianca, told The Associated Press at the time that she would contact Herold to talk about the dangers of a strong, wild animal.
\”I don\’t think it\’s a good idea to be driving around with a chimpanzee in your car that can easily escape,\’\’ she told the AP – five years before the attack on Nash. \”An animal like this could easily kill a human.\’\’
Both the police and the chimp\’s owner said at the time that Travis started acting out because something – possibly a paper cup – had been thrown at the car in which he was riding in downtown Stamford.
Nash, now 58, has hired a lobbyist and is taking steps in an attempt to sue the state of Connecticut for $150 million.