LAS VEGAS (AP) — Animal rights activists in a city already jittery from two separate chimp escapes this summer are protesting a Las Vegas-area property owner's request to house primates in a residential area, saying the animals pose a public safety issue.
Activist Linda Faso said she and others were holding a demonstration next to the house Friday afternoon, after distributing fliers in the area that featured a snarling chimp and a gruesome before-and-after shot of a Connecticut woman mauled by one in 2009.
"I'm opposed to anyone having a wild dangerous animal as a pet," said Faso, a Las Vegas resident. "They're cute when they're babies but dangerous as adults."
Town leaders are expected to review a use permit next week that would allow four chimps and a capuchin money on the property, which is located on a spacious lot in unincorporated Clark County, has large cages in the backyard and once held a permit for exotic cats.
The request was filed by Stacy Jones. A woman who answered at the home Friday said chimps are already living there, but she declined to give her name or comment further. She referred questions to owner James "Mike" Casey, who didn't return messages seeking comment.
Casey holds a USDA permit for three chimpanzees and a small monkey affiliated with "A Great Ape Experience." An online business directory says clients can hire Casey and the animals to liven up cocktail receptions or children's birthday parties.
The listing also boasts a litany of charity work, including special appearances for children's cancer groups and a school for autistic children.
But Casey's also linked to a highly publicized chimp tragedy. For years, he co-directed a Missouri chimp rescue facility, where a chimp named Travis was bred. Travis went to live with a Connecticut woman shortly after he was born.
In 2009, the 200-pound, 15-year-old Travis mauled his owner's friend, Charla Nash, who was trying to lure the animal back to its home.
Nash lost her eyes, nose, lips and hands before the chimp was shot by police.
The specter of animal escapes looms especially large around Las Vegas, where chimpanzees Buddy and CJ broke free from their backyard enclosure in July. The duo roamed the streets and jumped on vehicles before a police officer shot the male, saying he got dangerously close to bystanders.
CJ, the female, was tranquilized, but got loose a second time a few weeks later and was moved to a sanctuary in Oregon.
Clark County leaders plan to review the permit application in November after a town advisory board makes recommendations. County commissioner Steve Sisolak said he wants to gauge public reaction to the living arrangement, especially in light of the highly publicized escapes.
"I don't think we're holding anyone to a higher standard, but there is increased scrutiny because of the publicity, absolutely," Sisolak told the Las Vegas Sun.
He also said Casey will need to explain why the chimps are living at a property without a proper county permit.
"He's going to . have to answer some questions about why he didn't do it in the first place," Sisolak said.