Illegal pet monkey attacks woman in Paso Robles

Jennaeve, a Javan macaque, is now in quarantine.
Jennaeve, a Javan macaque, is now in quarantine.

A Javan macaque monkey, kept illegally as a pet in rural Paso Robles, is in quarantine after biting a woman who was caring for it.

The 22-year-old primate, named Jennaeve, is obese because of an improper diet including Frosted Flakes and juice. It was kept in a small dog kennel inside a couple’s trailer, officials said.

Despite weighing double what it should, the monkey appeared to be in generally good health, said David Jackson, director of Zoo to You, a private wildlife rescue and education program. The monkey is being quarantined for 60 days at Zoo to You in Paso Robles.

The San Luis Obispo County division of Animal Services was notified Monday after a Paso Robles woman sought medical treatment at a local hospital for several severe bite wounds, including one on her arm and thumb.

The owner of the macaque has not been identified, but the animal likely belongs to the woman’s boyfriend, officials said. It was not the first time the monkey had bitten the woman, according to officials.

The suspected owner, who moved to Paso Robles five years ago from Texas, is believed to have raised the monkey from the time it was 2 weeks old. The California Department of Fish and Game is handling the investigation and could file charges against the monkey’s owner for unlawful possession of a restricted species.

If found guilty, the owner could face a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The macaque was taken to the vet Friday to have several tumors on her neck, rump and shoulder inspected and to be tested for tuberculosis.

Jackson, who has been caring for the monkey since Wednesday night, said it does not seem like an aggressive animal and had shared some social activities with him such as grooming — something Jackson compares to shaking hands or hugging for humans.

“Like anybody, she is a little overwhelmed being in a new place surrounded by new people,” Jackson said. “But she is getting the proper diet of fruits, vegetables and monkey chow, sunlight, room to roam and a place to hide and climb.”

Eric Anderson, Animal Services manager, said that this is only the second monkey seized in San Luis Obispo County in the past 10 years.

While strict laws in California prohibit owning exotic animals to protect both them and the public, other parts of the country don’t have such laws.

Macaques can be purchased in Nevada or even online. It’s not clear where Jennaeve was purchased.

“The lesson here is the fact that just because a person can find and buy a monkey someplace doesn’t really make it OK,” Anderson said. “It is certainly understandable that there might be an emotional attachment, but on the other hand, you have to recognize that whatever bond was formed doesn’t outweigh or counterbalance the safety issues involved.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.