Official: I Worried About Chimp - NBC Connecticut

Official: I Worried About Chimp

Another former Stamford resident says Travis bit her too



    Official: I Worried About Chimp
    Police Officer Paul Pavia inspects the scene after Travis, a domesticated chimpanzee, was shot and killed by a Stamford Police officer after a violent rampage that left a friend of its owner badly mauled in Stamford, Conn.

    An animal control officer Stamford, a rampaging 200-pound chimpanzee named Travis, critically injured a woman this week says she expressed safety concerns about the animal several years ago.

    Lynn DellaBianco said she warned Sandra Herold in 2003 after the pet chimpanzee escaped Herold's vehicle and frolicked in downtown Stamford traffic for a few hours.

    Leslie Mostel-Paul, a former city resident now living in Atlanta, also says she complained to Herold and police in 1996 when Travis bit her and tried to pull her into a vehicle as she greeted him.

    "I honestly believe if they had followed through, maybe the laws would have been changed sooner and this other woman wouldn't be in the hospital, fighting for her life now," Mostel-Paul said.

    Oct 2003: Travis Got Loose

    [HAR] Oct 2003: Travis Got Loose
    This isn't the first primate problem: Travis the chimp got loose on the streets of Stamford, CT on October 19, 2003.
    (Published Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009)

    Police shot and killed Travis Monday after it attacked one of Herold's friends, Charla Nash, 55. Nash remains hospitalized with critical injuries to her face and hands.

    DellaBianco, who ran Stamford's animal shelter at the time of the 2003 incident, told NBC's "Today Show" in an interview aired Thursday that she warned Herold that the pet's mischievous behavior was worrisome.

    "I did express concern that obviously this could turn into something worse if he really decided to start getting angry and do something," DellaBianco said.

    Authorities have not said whether Herold will face criminal charges.

    State law allowed her to own the 14-year-old chimp as a pet, though several state leaders are calling for tighter restrictions in the wake of Monday's attack.

    Herold, who raised the chimpanzee from its infancy, has said he was a loving pet whose behavior Monday was completely out of character.

    "It's a horrible thing, but I'm not a horrible person and he's not a horrible chimp." said Herold, who tried to stop the attack by stabbing Travis with a butcher knife and beating him with a shovel.

    On Wednesday, she disputed police statements that she gave the animal the anti-anxiety drug Xanax shortly before he attacked Nash.

    However, Herold said in an interview aired Wednesday morning on NBC's "Today" show that she gave Travis the drug in some tea less than five minutes before he attacked Nash -- she even showed a reporter the mug. Police have said Herold told them that she gave Travis Xanax that had not been prescribed for him earlier on Monday to calm him because he was agitated.

    Herold, a 70-year-old widow whose daughter was killed in a car accident several years ago, told the AP the chimp "was my life" and that she "never, never, never" gave it Xanax. "He never had anything but love."

    Herold speculated that Travis was being protective of her when he attacked Nash, who she said was driving a different car, wearing a new hairstyle and holding an Elmo stuffed toy in front of her face as a present to the chimp.

    "She had the toy in front of her. This was just a freak thing," Herold said.

    Authorities are trying to determine why the chimp, a veteran of TV commercials who could dress himself, drink wine from a glass and use the toilet, suddenly attacked. A test for rabies was negative, Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin said Wednesday.