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Laconia monkey in 'witness protection'

By BEA LEWIS
Special to the Sunday News

March 11. 2017 11:29PM

A monkey was seized during a property search in Laconia on Monday. Officials are now seeking an appropriate home for the monkey. (Courtesy)



LACONIA - The fate of a monkey remains in limbo after it was taken from a Laconia home where it was being kept illegally as a family pet.

Bella, a Patus monkey, is under the care of a registered wildlife rehabilitator after being taken from a house at 38 Cross St. late Monday afternoon, according to state Fish & Game Officer Chris Brison.

"The monkey is in witness protection," said veterinarian Dr. Michael Dutton, who owns and operates the Weare Animal Hospital, where the monkey was examined.

The rehabilitator now caring for Bella is a volunteer and keeping the location secret will prevent the media and the public from parading to the property for a look, Dutton said. Caring for a monkey is labor intensive and, he said, the rehabilitator shouldn't be burdened with having to police curious visitors.

Fish & Game officials are working to place the monkey in a forever home with primates of its own species, whether that be a zoo or sanctuary.

"Our main goal is to get him to the best facility where he can interact with his own kind," said Brison.

Penny Dessalines, 47, has been issued a citation by Brison for keeping a monkey without a permit, and is facing a $124 fine. While the state could urge a judge to level a maximum fine of up to $1,000 for the violation, Brison said he had no plans to do so.

Efforts to reach Dessalines were unsuccessful. No one answered the door at the rented home, across the street from the Laconia Police Department, nor did she reply to a note left at the property, seeking comment.

Dutton, who specializes in the treatment of exotic animals, said he took a blood sample from Bella after learning it had been interacting with its owner and family members, including children. It is being tested for diseases that it can spread to humans. Results of the tests are not yet known.

With the help of five staff members over the course of several hours, Dutton said, he was able to physically examine the 20-pound monkey, which appeared in good health, and draw blood that is being tested for Hepatitis C, Simian AIDS and Herpes B. While the monkey was "traumatized" and did not display aggression, Dutton said, the unneutered male animal was equipped to defend himself.

"He had some really big teeth. His canines from the gum line were about 2 ½ inches long."

Patus monkeys are native to semi-arid areas of West and East Africa. They are reddish-brown in color with a black brow ridge and nose with white markings around the mouth. A slender-bodied, long-armed species, they are considered the Usain Bolt of the primate world, capable of hitting speeds of up to 34 mph, making them physically adapted to life on the ground.

Baby monkeys, with pint-sized, human-like features, appeal to people who dream of a companion animal they can dress, carry around, spoon-feed and nuzzle, but Dutton warns that those sweet babies grow up into difficult adults and that primates are a poor choice for a pet.

"From a social perspective, what we run into is a social animal who does best in an environment that is enriching," Dutton said. "I hate to tell you that's probably best in a jungle or a savanna, not in a living room."

Brison said he has filed a motion in Laconia Circuit Court asking the judge to authorize the release of evidence so the monkey can be transported to his new home once the test results come back and a health certificate is issued.

"We're being real picky about where he goes and are looking at the best options," he stressed.

Executing the search warrant that resulted in the monkey's seizure was difficult for all involved.

"It was terrible all around and not fair to the animal," Brison said.

The owner and her husband were warned previously by the department that keeping a monkey as a pet in New Hampshire was illegal, but they weren't charged at that time. They were instead advised to relocate it to a state where it was allowed.

"We caught word that they still had it. I was really hoping it wasn't going to be there. It's unfortunate to have to seize someone's animal that they have had as a pet for a long time and there are kids involved."

Their extreme intelligence relative to other animals causes people to focus on their human-like attributes, often at their peril. Monkeys are wild animals and can be extremely destructive, especially if bored, said Dutton.

Fish and Game rules prohibit ownership of primates. Only exhibitors, people training, showing or displaying wildlife, who have state and federal permits to do so, are allowed to possess a monkey in New Hampshire.

Monkeys can live 20 to 40 years and require a specialized diet, housing and veterinary care. If deprived of attention they can develop atypical behaviors and, as they become sexually mature, they can also become territorial and aggressive.


Animals General News Laconia


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