Pet monkeys confiscated, owner fined

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By Stephen Lega

Having two exotic pets proved to be costly for a Marion County woman. In addition to surrendering her pets to a primate rescue organization, she was ordered to pay $393 in court costs, fines, fees, taxes and restitution to a primate rescue organization.   "It just took my heart," Wanda Skaggs said.

Skaggs, 54, of 2550 St. Matthews Cemetery Road in Finley had two pet marmosets, according to the uniform citation issued by Jeremy McQueary of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

According to marmosets.com, marmosets are a type of monkey that grows to about eight inches long and weighs between one-quarter and one-half of a pound.

Skaggs' husband died in March of 2009, and she got her first marmoset, Giz, about a month later. She said Giz helped her cope with the loss of her husband.

"He took the grieving and everything away," Skaggs said.

She described Giz as a sweetheart who would often sit on people's arms.

"When you'd bring in a new toy for him, he was just like a little kid," Skaggs said.

This past April, she got a second marmoset, Momo, which she acquired after trading the previous owner for a white cockatoo. Unlike Giz, however, Momo, could be mean, Skaggs said.

A few weeks after she got Momo, Skaggs was sitting at her computer when the wildlife officer knocked at her door. She said she couldn't deny owning the marmosets since one of them was looking out the door when the officer arrived.

Skaggs said the officer was nice about the situation, but he also explained that she couldn't have the marmosets as pets.

"I did not know that you could not have them in Kentucky," she said.

According to Skaggs, the officer commented on how good she kept the conditions for her marmosets. He didn't take the animals that day, but she wasn't surprised when they were later removed.

According to information on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, any nonhuman primate has been considered an inherently dangerous animal since July of 2005, and the general public is prohibited from importing, possessing or transporting inherently dangerous animals, under Kentucky Administrative Regulations.

Skaggs said she wouldn't have minded if they had only taken Momo, but losing Giz was harder. Skaggs' children are adults now, but she compared losing Giz to having a child taken from her.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't miss Giz," she said.

On April 24, Skaggs was charged with holding exotic or prohibited inherently dangerous wildlife by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. This is a violation of KRS 150, which specifies state policies regarding wildlife.

On May 24, Skaggs appeared in Marion District Court before Judge Connie Phillips. Skaggs pled guilty and was ordered to pay $200 restitution to the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville. She also was ordered to pay $130 court costs, $50 criminal fine, a $10 restitution fee, a 50-cent law library fee and $2.50 in taxes.

Skaggs said she doesn't know who contacted the wildlife department, but she said she would not have said anything if the situation was reversed.

"I wouldn't tell on anybody if you had a grizzly bear in the backyard," she said.

According to the court order, the marmosets were being held by the Primate Rescue Center and they will be transferred to the Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary in Florida later this month.

Skaggs still has dogs and a bird, an African gray, but that doesn't change how much she misses "her baby", Giz.

"I wish I had him back," she said.