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October 4, 2000

Attack monkeys pose safety risk

By BILL POWER -- Halifax Herald


The Canada Safety Council issued an alert Monday about the latest animal threat to human safety - attack monkeys.

Although police and people in the pet industry in Nova Scotia are unaware of a monkey problem in this part of the world, the safety council indicated it is taking seriously the increase in popularity of the dangerous critters in Europe, and France in particular.

Council president Emile J.Therien said attack monkeys are becoming a trendy replacement for potentially vicious dog breeds such as pit bulls, Dobermanns and Rottweilers, which have either been banned or face severe restrictions in some cities.

"If it isn't a problem, then fine, but we want to issue the warning and nip this thing in the bud before it starts," Mr. Therien said from Ottawa.

The safety council is lobbying Ottawa to establish a database on vicious animal attacks to allow lawmakers to zero in on and restrict particular breeds.

An increase in popularity of these so-called fighting or attack monkeys in France shows there will always be a demand for vicious animals, Mr. Therien said.

"As fast as you ban one breed or species, something else is brought in to replace it.

"Only a few years ago, attack dogs were a rarity in this country and now we have thousands."

One of the more notorious fighting breeds in Nova Scotia is the pit bull, which has experienced a huge surge in popularity in the past decade.

There have been repeated calls for a ban on pit bulls in this province.

"We strongly believe a national database with information on dangerous breeds and vicious attacks is a crucial link," Mr. Therien said.

Sgt. Wayne Noonan, provincial RCMP spokesman in Nova Scotia, said he is unaware of any reports of problems with monkeys in the province.

But French authorities report that youth gangs in depressed city suburbs who've lost their fighting dogs are using attack monkeys to intimidate their rivals.

The most popular attack monkey - the Barbary ape - is imported illegally through Spain from Gibraltar, Morocco or Algeria.

It is known for its powerful limbs, sharp teeth and short temper. Animal experts say the Barbary ape can be turned into a frightening and effective weapon.

Regardless of their suitability for fighting, one Halifax pet store staffer said monkeys of any sort make poor pets.

"Monkeys are very dirty and must be diapered most of the time," said Dale Cuvelier of Mike's Pets and Plants on Almon Street in Halifax. "They tend to bite, and spend a lot of time fondling themselves.

"This is an animal that should generally be left in its own natural environment."

  


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