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May 24, 2015

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Commission decision means chimps must go elsewhere

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Joe Schoenmann

This is Kenzy, a 7-year-old chimpanzee, one of four chimps and a capuchin monkey at the center of a battle before Clark County commissioners, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

This is Kenzy, a 7-year-old chimpanzee, one of four chimps and a capuchin monkey at the center of a battle before Clark County commissioners, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

This is Kenzy, a 7-year-old chimpanzee, one of four chimps and a capuchin monkey at the center of a battle before Clark County commissioners, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

Mike Casey can stay, but his chimps have to go.

Clark County commissioners voted 5-1 at their meeting Wednesday to deny a use permit that would have allowed Casey to keep four chimps and a capuchin monkey at a rental home at Decatur Boulevard and Robindale Road in the far southwest valley.

Casey now has 30 days to find a place for himself and his animals. Casey asked for a more time, given that two tigers and a cougar that used to live there had a permit that lasted until 2015.

"I would ask (for an) allowance so I'm not chimps in a truck trying to find a place, because I will not give these up to a sanctuary, these are my family," Casey said.

Commissioner Tom Collins, who cast the lone vote against denying the permit, said he'd be happy to have Casey and his animals in his district in the northeast valley.

"I've got a zoo in my district and we've got a lot of folks where they're not just trying to get everybody eating broccoli."

The county’s Animal Control division recommended denial of the permit.

Don Coburn, code enforcement facilitator for the county’s Animal Control division, said Casey had complied with all recommendations his office ordered in August. But based on development in the area, Coburn feared what would happen if one of the animals escaped.

KB Homes is building more than a dozen houses just over the wall from Casey’s home.

“That’s your feeling,” Collins told Coburn.

But "show me (part of the county code) that you're basing your feelings on."

Coburn replied the county "doesn't have exotic animals addressed in this way."

Collins noted Casey's home is zoned in a way that would allow horses. Horses, Collins added, "could run right through a chain link face. Horses are dangerous, too."

Attorney Carney Chester, representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said commissioners must deny Casey's requested use permit without evidence that the use is harmonious with neighborhood, and enhances the neighborhood.

"Mr. Casey has not made such a showing," she added.

PETA mounted a drive against the permit that resulted in Commissioner Steve Sisolak getting more than 1,900 emails about the chimpanzees’ captivity.

One woman speaking against the permit asked if commissioners "want chimps in your neighborhood?"

"People should be able to walk their dogs, children (should be able to) play and enjoy their yards without worrying that a chimp should get lose," she added.

But another woman who said she has lived across the street from Casey's home defended the request. She said she was there when the home housed two tigers and a cougar.

"We never had any issues regarding these animals," she said.

The neighbor took issue with a recent television news report about the permit, saying "if people have moral issues, this is not the place for those issues. We are only looking at the zoning approval."

Another person told commissioners a dog kills a person every day on average; more than 2,000 people are admitted to a hospital for a dog bite every day. A chimp, he added, has never killed a person in the United States.

"Are chimps dangerous? Sure they are. So are dogs and cats. So are cars and skydiving..." he added.

Karen Lane, president of Las Vegas Valley Humane Society, said if commissioners approve the permit, it should be "of limited duration" because an exotic animals bill that is going to be heard in the Legislature next year. That bill could ban the ownership of most exotic animals in Nevada.

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