FESTUS, Mo. (KTVI) – A St. Louis-area chimpanzee owner is being warned a second time by a federal judge, with a new court order saying all her chimps must go.
But Tonia Haddix says she’s not backing down, defying the animal rights group PETA and the judge who ordered her to turn over seven chimpanzees.
“They’re going to have to bring sheriffs, and they’re going to have to bring everything they can,” she said. “They’re not getting the chimps. They’re not getting them. Now I’ve decided I’m keeping all of them, just for the principal of the matter, because they don’t deserve the chimps.”
This past April, KTVI got an inside look at the Festus chimpanzee complex.
Haddix is not the chimps’ original owner. She stepped in to help Connie Casey five years ago when PETA sued Casey for alleged unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
“Connie’s had chimps in this area for 50 years,” Haddix said. “She’s never had any problems with the neighbors. If you check with the neighbors, they love the chimps and I think these chimps should be able to stay in the only home they know.”
An earlier court order said Haddix could keep three chimpanzees and PETA would move four others to another facility.
However, a federal judge ruled last week that Haddix hasn’t proven she’s kept up her end of the bargain for requirements, including hiring a full-time caregiver and building appropriate housing.
“How am I in contempt?” Haddix said. “I still take care of the chimps. I still buy their produce. I still pay the electric. I still provide clean cages every day. In fact, that’s what we just got done doing.”
PETA issued the following statement Monday: “There is a sad history here for the chimpanzees, and PETA’s focus is on facilitating their court-ordered transfer to a safe, caring, spacious, and professional sanctuary environment. As the court advised Ms. Haddix during a recent hearing, continuing contempt of its orders could result in her arrest.”
Haddix faces a $50 a day fine and orders to allow PETA access until the chimpanzees can be transferred. She says she’s failed to find any attorney who will take her case, forcing her to fight alone.
“We’ll go to the Supreme Court,” she said. “We’ll go as far as we need to go try to keep the chimps that’s all there is to it.”