Monkey attacks 10-month-old girl

LaPorte County infant suffers minor scrapes in tussle with pet primate
2009-11-24T00:05:00Z Monkey attacks 10-month-old girlBY Stan Maddux - Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 24, 2009 12:05 am  • 

LAPORTE | A baby was injured Sunday evening when attacked by a pet monkey in a LaPorte home.

LaPorte police said officers were called to the LaPorte Hospital emergency room about 5:30 p.m.

Bethany Nystrom, 22, was with her 10-month-old daughter, Brenna, and the baby's grandmother, Tonya Green, 40, all of Walkerton.

The family members had been at the home of Nystrom's aunt and uncle, Richard and Laura Burlos, in the 200 block of Cable Street on the city's northeast side.

Police said their investigation showed Green was holding her granddaughter near the cage that held Sammy, a monkey kept in the home as a pet. The baby started crying. Green then noticed the monkey had reached outside of its cage and grabbed the hood of the coat Brenna was wearing.

Police said the monkey began pulling on the hood, causing the baby's head to repeatedly strike the metal cage. The monkey let go of the hood but started pulling the infant's hair, police said. With everyone in the home panicking, Laura Burlos reached into the cage and grabbed Sammy forcing the monkey to let go of the infant.

Police said Brenna suffered "rope burn" on the right side of her neck caused by the string of her coat and red marks on the back of her head from being forced into the cage. Bethany Nystrom said the force of the blows had her concerned, but her daughter was released from the hospital Sunday night.

The infant was lucky she wasn't seriously hurt, one expert said, because of the strength and other potential dangers posed by the cuddly looking primates.

"No matter how much you try to make them human, they're wild animals and they will attack. Sometimes unprovoked," said Jamie Huss, assistant director of the Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City.

Huss, a handler of monkeys for 16 years, is in charge of the zoo's primate house.

"They're unpredictable. I'd never have one as a pet," she said.

Nystrom said the attack lasted only about "10 to 15 seconds but it felt like forever.''

Huss speculated the baby was attacked because monkeys are territorial and Sammy might not have liked having the baby so close to its cage. She said potential for danger is heightened when monkeys are denied the companionship of other monkeys, especially when a desire to mate arises at maturity.

"They have that look of being nice and friendly, but they don't stay that way," Huss said.

Sarah Bernth, a LaPorte Animal Control officer, said she learned about Sammy a year ago during a routine call, and the monkey then was up to date on its vaccinations.

"They've owned the monkey for quite a few years. I found them to be responsible pet owners,'' Bernth said.

Bernth said Indiana is one of a few states that allow monkeys to be kept as pets without a permit. But, she said, monkeys can be removed from a home if found to be a nuisance or dangerous, which will be one of the focuses of her follow-up investigation.

Indiana does require a $10 permit for those who wish to keep as pets other wild animals, including bears, coyotes, foxes, skunks and wolves, as well as alligators and crocodiles that are at least 5 feet long.

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