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Chimp owner denied permit by Clark County

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Chimp owner denied permit by Clark County

From Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest
November 2012

A couple weeks ago we sent an alert encouraging supporters to write to Clark County Commissioners and ask that they deny Mike Casey a permit to keep housing his chimpanzees.

Today we have excellent news - the hearing held this morning decided to deny Casey's permit. Congratulations to all who took action and helped speak up for these chimpanzees!

From the Las Vegan Journal:

Mike Casey will have to take his show chimps somewhere else.

After he housed the four juvenile apes and a capuchin monkey at a southwest valley home for two years without a permit, Clark County commissioners on Wednesday denied his request to keep them there for another year.

Their 5-1 decision gives him 30 days to take them somewhere else - perhaps out of the county.

"It is what it is," a disappointed Casey said afterward.

Since commissioners approved housing two tigers and a cougar on the 2-acre property near Robindale Road and Decatur Boulevard in 2003, dozens of homes have been built in the area, and new homes are scheduled to be built just feet from the animals' cages. Two commissioners cited the buildup as the reason for denying the permit.

"It's the proximity that is the concern to me," Commissioner Steve Sisolak said.

The big cats are no longer on the property.

Casey said he is one of only three people in the country who makes a living using the apes for photo opportunities and birthday parties, and he wanted until the end of next year to find them a more suitable location in the valley.

The chimps are not fully grown, but when they are, he plans on taking them to a facility he owns in Missouri that houses adult chimpanzees rescued from zoos and homes.

Casey bred the chimp, Travis, that tore the face off a Connecticut woman in 2009. Charla Nash lost her hands and face but received a successful face transplant.

Several people spoke both for and against the zoning permit Wednesday, including a neighbor who lives across the street from the home at 4835 Robindale Road.

"We have never had any issues regarding these animals," LuAnn Day said. "I held (one of the chimps), and he gave me a big hug as he was eating a banana."

But several opponents included a lawyer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and a former friend, who said he witnessed Casey pound the animals on the head with a closed fist, pull their arms sharply and throw water on them when they got out of line.

Casey and his former fiancee denied the allegations.

But commissioners said they weren't there to decide the treatment of the animals, but whether it was safe to keep them on the property.

The county Animal Control officers didn't think so.

Code enforcement officer Don Coburn said if the chimps escaped from their chain-link enclosures, it would be easy for them to climb over the 8-foot chain-link fence surrounding the property and a block wall and be in a neighbor's yard just feet away.

"We do not feel that exotic animals should be in this area," Coburn said.

Casey's request came at an unfortunate time after the escape of two chimps from a northwest valley home in July attracted scrutiny over how and where exotic animals are kept in the county.

Las Vegas police shot and killed one of the animals, Buddy. The other, 13-year-old CJ, was tranquilized by North Las Vegas police, but escaped again less than a month later. She was captured a second time and is being housed at an Oregon sanctuary.

The escapes prompted county commissioners to pursue tighter county regulations for owning exotic animals.

Changes will include verifying the education and expertise of someone wanting to own exotic animals, requiring Animal Control officers to conduct annual inspections and requesting input from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on applications for exotic pets.

Those proposed changes are in contrast to how the county treats keeping exotic animals now: as a land use issue rather than examining an owner's qualifications to care for the animal.

Casey said he might have to move the chimps out of Clark County because county officials warned commissioners that 30 days probably would not be enough time for him to get a new permit here.

Casey said he wants to stay in the area, and he might have help from Commissioner Tom Collins, who was the lone vote in favor of granting him the temporary permit.

Collins said he would be happy to have the animals at a ranch-style home in his northeast valley district, which encompasses North Las Vegas.