Chimp Attack Victim Says Connecticut Governor Knew of Danger

March 28, 2012

A woman who was mauled and severely injured by an out-of-control chimpanzee and is now suing the state of Connecticut says Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, as then-mayor of Stamford, knew the animal was dangerous.

In an interview with The Hartford Courant, Charla Nash said the chimpanzee got loose and roamed Stamford in 2003. She says Malloy knew the chimp’s owner, Sandra Herold, and allowed her to take him home and warned that he should be locked up. She was attacked by the animal in February 2009.

“I know he was the mayor when Travis was running loose that time in 2003. (Herold) knew him. And she said he allowed her to take Travis home and said (to) keep him locked up,” she said. “I think it was said that if he got loose again, they were going to shoot him. That’s what Sandra told me.”

Malloy’s senior adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, said Friday that the governor may have met and spoken with Herold when she attended one or more of his periodic meetings with the public. But he said it was “never about the chimp” and not about the incident Nash mentioned.

Nash’s lawyers say state environmental officials received reports and complaints about the danger and that the state was required by law to remove Travis, but did nothing.

She said the chimpanzee was “a known danger” in a residential area.

“With a dog, you’ve got to keep him on a leash,” she said. “Animals have to have rabies shots. How come he was excluded?”

A spokesman for the state environmental agency would not comment because Nash’s case is before the state claims commission.

Nash has a $50 million lawsuit against the estate of Herold, who died in May 2010. She also has a request before the state’s claims commissioner for permission to pursue a $150 million lawsuit against the state for allegedly failing to protect the public, including herself, from a dangerous animal.

If her request to sue the state is denied by the Claims Commission, she can appeal to the legislature. Nash’s lawyers have hired a lobbyist to represent her if necessary at the state Capitol.

The state has “sovereign immunity” against most lawsuits unless such permission is granted.

“I hope that I do get my day in court,” Nash said.

In addition to her legal challenges, Nash has medical hurdles to overcome, including another operation to give her new hands. A double transplant failed last year.

Part of her current therapy regimen is to gain weight, she said, and she needs to build strength, especially in her arms.

“I don’t know what the future’s going to bring … so I don’t get my hopes up,” she said.

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