PETA: “Notorious chimpanzee exhibitor” busted in Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE – Back on July 10, a man named James Casey was arrested in Brooksville on four conservation charges by the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

He posted $2,000 bond the same day, and is due in Judge Kurt Hitzemann’s court on Thursday for a pre-trial hearing.

But according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), there’s much more to Casey’s story.

PETA spokeswoman Brittany Peet said Casey’s “lengthy record of abuse and chimpanzee neglect” goes back to around 1994, and he’s been on the organization’s radar for a while.

“He’s definitely had a lot of issues,” Peet said.

Peet said Casey has been investigated by the USDA for the “improper care” of junior chimpanzees. In March, Peet said Casey was found with chimps living in a “squalid travel trailer” with “built up grime, food waste and feces.”

Casey has admitted to punching and throwing hot tea on the animals for misbehaving, according to Peet, and that part of his own nose has been bitten off by one of his animals.

Peet said it was Casey’s Missouri facility that bred and sold a chimpanzee named Travis, whose story received national attention back in 2009 after he attacked a Connecticut woman named Charla Nash, who needed a face transplant.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report states their office received an anonymous tip from Missouri that Casey had entered Florida with three chimpanzees. FWC had previous knowledge that Casey was planning to bring the animals to Hernando Primate Sanctuary, according to the report. According to Hernando Primate Sanctuary’s website, the 10-acre facility is located at 14495 Chicaric Rd., just west of the Suncoast Parkway. The “non-profit educational exotic animal reserve” is owned by Ann Kelly, and is home to 27 primates, cougars, lions, tigers and leopards, according to the website.

On July 10, Casey admitted to FWC investigators he had three chimpanzees, aged 12, 8 and 2, that he was planning to sell to Kelly.

Casey did not have the proper license for possessing chimpanzees, and Kelly had two more animals than her permit allowed.

The FWC found Casey possessed chimpanzees without a license, failed to produce insurance or bond for the chimpanzees and unlawful transport.

The chimpanzees were taken to Suncoast Primary Sanctuary in Palm Harbor, which is licensed to house chimpanzees by the FWC.

According to Peet, the Palm Harbor nonprofit is a “roadside zoo,” and PETA is asking the FWC to move the chimpanzees – named Hannah, Kenzy and Bentley – to a North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance for lifetime care.

On Tuesday, FWC investigator James Manson said the chimpanzees are temporarily being housed at Suncoast Primary Sanctuary, and will be taken back to the Hernando Primate Sanctuary later this week after the facility’s chimpanzee enclosure is inspected and approved.

Manson said Casey was previously licensed to possess and transport chimpanzees in Florida in 2008.

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