March 12, 2009
The Honorable Charlie Crist Governor of Florida
Dear Governor Crist:
As a proud supporter of PETA, I'm thrilled to be coming to Florida this weekend for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida's gala celebrating its important work on behalf of animals in your state. I visit Florida frequently because of the beaches and nightlife, but my favorite experience in the state was my visit to Save the Chimps, an animal sanctuary in Fort Pierce. Save the Chimps provides refuge to chimpanzees who have been rescued from laboratories or the entertainment industry. The animals live among their own kind on 3-acre islands, each linked to indoor shelters by a land bridge and dotted with jungle gyms, hammocks, and tire swings.
Not all apes in Florida are so lucky. Great apes are complex, social beings with long life spans. Even though they share more than 95 percent of our DNA, many great apes are languishing in Florida's decrepit roadside zoos—old-fashioned "attractions" that do not meet the social, physical, and habitat needs of great apes. These noble animals are often confined to small, barren cages and denied everything that is natural to them for years on end. Is that any way to treat our closest relatives in the animal world?
Not surprisingly, great apes living in these hellholes will take any opportunity to escape—and because of their immense strength, they pose a danger to the public across the country. In September 2005, four chimpanzees at a roadside zoo in Nebraska escaped from their cage and terrorized a boy. In March 2005, four chimpanzees in California escaped from their cage and attacked a man, biting off both of his testicles, most of his fingers, and almost his entire face. And just last month in Connecticut, a chimpanzee (who had been taken away from his mother as a baby and used in commercials) attacked a woman; the victim lost her hands, nose, lips, and eyelids in the attack.
With so many frustrated great apes stewing in squalid facilities in Florida, it is only a matter of time before a similar tragedy strikes your state. PETA and I appeal to you to take action to prevent Florida's roadside zoos from keeping great apes and to ensure that these intelligent primates are transferred to approved sanctuaries to live out the remainder of their lives in suitable surroundings.
I look forward to hearing from you.