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November 25, 2014

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Protest planned against chimps being kept in SW valley

Chimp protest planned

Animal activists, citing public safety as the operative concern, plan to protest Friday against a man who has been keeping three chimps at his southwest Las Vegas home.

The organizer of the protest, Linda Faso, said she’s worried someone could get hurt.

“These are powerful animals, their hands have the strength of five men,” she said. “We’re talking about a very dangerous animal.”

Faso, 66, has been an animal-rights advocate for 25 years and said she can’t stand the suffering of mistreated animals. She doesn’t live in the area but heard about the chimps through an animal-rights group.

Her greatest concern is the safety of the neighborhood. She plans to protest at noon Friday with a dozen or so others.

“They’re escape artists,” she said of the chimps. “They’re extremely intelligent.”

The animals, though, aren’t a concern of everyone in the neighborhood, near West Robindale Road and South Decatur Boulevard.

Katherine McCormack, 75, has lived in the area for 20 years and isn’t worried about her safety.

“It’s no big deal,” she said. “He’s been dealing with (the chimps) a long time and he knows what he’s doing.”

The owner of the chimps, Mike Casey, operates a business out of his home on West Robindale Road. Faso said the protest would occur in an empty lot next door.

Casey did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The public safety hazard chimps can present has come into sharp relief in recent years. In 2009, a chimp that had appeared in TV commercials mauled a woman in Connecticut, damaging her face beyond recognition.

Earlier this year, two chimps escaped from their enclosure in northwest Las Vegas and ran through the area near Ann Road and Jones Boulevard. As efforts to capture the animals continued, the chimpanzees appeared agitated. One of the chimpanzees climbed on top of a woman’s car and tried to open her door. At one point, one of the chimps had climbed onto a police car and was banging on it. When one chimpanzee was about to enter a neighborhood area where neighbors and children were outside, Metro Police officers shot and killed it. The other chimp was shot with a tranquilizer, captured and returned to its owner. That chimp later escaped again, was captured and now has taken up residence at an Oregon wildlife sanctuary.

There are other legal points at issue, too. Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said Casey did not have a permit for the animals, or a business license. The property where Casey lives did have a permit for exotic cats, but Sisolak said the permit has since expired and would not have covered the chimps anyway.

“I want to make sure that if this gets approved that the neighbors are OK with it,” Sisolak said.

Casey has applied for a permit, and the County Commission is scheduled to rule on the request at its Nov. 21 meeting. Sisolak said his prime concern was the level of neighbors’ support for Casey’s chimps. If there is overwhelming distaste, Sisolak said, then Casey is unlikely to win approval.

“I don’t think we’re holding anyone to a higher standard but there is increased scrutiny because of the publicity, absolutely,” Sisolak said. “He’s going to … have to answer some questions about why he didn’t do it in the first place.”

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