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    Monkey put down following attack
Lansing pet had to be tested for diseases
by Nigel Rosser

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

By Anne Bowhay Staff Writer

A pet monkey that viciously attacked its Lansing owner was euthanized last week for rabies testing, Cook County officials said Tuesday.

Word of Zip the monkey's death ruined Cathy Huscher's homecoming after eight days in the hospital. It also caused plenty of tension between her and husband, Bill Huscher.

"He's happy, jumping up and down, clapping, saying 'Yeah, I gave permission (to kill Zip),' but it wasn't his monkey," she said indignantly. "He said he wants to use the head as a paperweight."

But Bill Huscher insists he had good reason to let Cook County's chief animal control officer, veterinarian Dan Parma, test the 7-year-old Great Java macaque for rabies. The procedure, done Friday night, requires an animal to be euthanized, its brain removed, and the brain tissue tested.

"(Parma) told me in the very beginning what he was going to do, and I said, 'Hey, as badly as she's bitten, you do what you have to do,'" Bill Huscher said.

Parma said tests done on the monkey before and after it was euthanized show it did not carry rabies, tuberculosis, HIV, measles, or the often-fatal herpes B virus when it attacked Cathy Huscher Feb. 13.

Herpes B was the more likely and bigger threat, says Linda Howard, a Washington, D.C., advocate for captive primates who had begun lobbying for Zip's move into a primate sanctuary in San Antonio, Texas.

Howard says a Centers for Disease Control study estimates 80 percent of macaque monkeys are carriers of herpes B, a virus fatal to 70 percent of humans who contract it. In December 1997, a 22-year-old Atlanta researcher died of herpes B, three weeks after a macaque splashed an unknown bodily fluid in her eyes.

In Cathy Hutcher's case, her 25-pound pet monkey bit her, severely gashing her head, arms and legs after she opened its cage.

Huscher adopted the monkey a year ago from college students who "fed him beer and pizza and teased him during wild parties." But the monkey proved unreliable with her, too, and had once before attacked her and one of her 9-pound miniature pinschers. The dog had to undergo surgery after the monkey used its four fangs to rip open the dog's back.

Before the recent attack, the monkey had not been out of its large parrot cage for two months, living off a diet of primate food, Pepsi, wine and cheese with crackers. When Huscher opened its cage Feb. 13, "he sat there for a second before letting out this blood-curdling scream. He then attacked me in the head, arms and legs."

She does not recall how she got Zip back in its cage before calling 911, but figures it saved her life. She lost more than a pint of blood in the melee.

Not home at the time of the attack, Bill Huscher turned the monkey over to Parma for testing the next day. A veterinarian for 50 years, the animal control officer ordered extensive tests to rule out the monkey as a carrier of numerous diseases. That included the rabies Parma says is possible in any warm-blooded creature, even rabbits.

"We are not a bunch of lame-brain idiots," Parma said. "We are trying to do the best thing we can do to make assurances. If I were this woman, I would be happy to know I had none of these other diseases."

The question of moving the monkey to a sanctuary was a moot point in this case. "You can't test his brain without killing him," said Parma, 73, a former deputy director and chief veterinarian for Chicago's animal control department.

"If this monkey had not bit anyone but was dangerous, I would have sent it to the preserve. I would have been happy to. We do this all the time."

At his office in Bridgeview's courthouse, Parma counted 50 phone calls Tuesday from activists urging he spare the monkey none of them yet knew was dead. But Parma says some also told him Huscher should not have kept a monkey cooped up in a cage.

Howard agrees, too. Founder of a group called AESOP, or the Allied Effort to Save Other Primates, she was mobilizing "an action alert" among the activists who wanted to spare Zip's life.

She had hoped to move the monkey into a Texas sanctuary, The National Center for Retired Research Primates.

"The whole thing is so tragic. Zip could have, if not for his untimely death, lived in captivity, but in a very natural setting with other monkeys," she said.

Howard says public health concerns not the ethics of whether wild animals should be kept as pets are more likely to spur laws that bar macaques as pets.

"Even if it were not a public danger, it's not fair to the monkeys individually," she said.

Last week, an Illinois House panel tabled a bill that would have added primates to the list of animals banned for home ownership under the state's Dangerous Animals Act. State Rep. Anne Zickus (R-Palos Hills) sponsored the bill after talking to veterinarians and Brookfield Zoo staff.

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