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Appeals judge rejects suit against Chimps Inc.

By Mackenzie Wilson
Published On: Aug 09 2012 07:22:14 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Mackenzie Wilson reports as an Oregon appeals court judge rejects a former Chimps Inc. intern's suit against the sanctuary.

In 2008, 10 days into her internship at Chimps Inc. in Tumalo, Kristen Howard was mauled by Kimie - a 120-pound chimpanzee. The sanctuary's website states Kimie died in January of last year.

Court records show Howard, an anthropology student, was cleaning a cage with another intern when the chimp entered the cage through an unlocked door and assaulted her.

After multiple bites and blows, Kimie fled the cage, leaving Howard badly injured. Most of her left thumb was bit off.

As the Chimps Inc. staff tried to find Kimie, records show she jumped Howard again.

After the attack, the other intern called 911, which court papers reveal is strictly against Chimps Inc. procedures.

According to the training manual, only the owner of the sanctuary, executive manager and the ranch manager are authorized to call 911 as to avoid "receiving any unnecessary scrutiny over safety concerns."

Howard sued the sanctuary for more than $800,000, and after a four-year court battle, she lost.

An Oregon Court of Appeals Judge ruled that  because Howard signed a liability waiver, she cannot sue the sanctuary.

Court papers show the waiver includes a line, "If a chimp injures you or another it is obviously the result of human error."

The liability also acts as a non-disclosure agreement. It refers to the importance of not talking about injuries or escapes, saying, "It's difficult for people outside of the sanctuary to understand certain issues."

Since opening in 1995, court papers show chimps at the sanctuary have attacked at least five employees.

A spokeswoman for Chimps Inc. declined our request for an interview Thursday, but did say, "It's been a long four years, and we wish Kristen Howard the best."

The non-profit houses chimpanzees and a few big cats in need of homes. In about two weeks, Chimps Inc. will get its newest addition. C.J., a chimp who just weeks ago got loose in a Las Vegas suburb, will be coming to the sanctuary. A spokeswoman told us they're very excited about giving C.J. a new home.

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