This week we saw more evidence that the era of chimpanzee entertainment is ending. Chimp owner and exploiter James “Mike” Casey has left the arena, in notorious fashion. Through his company “A ‘Great Ape’ Experience,” Casey has been renting out chimpanzees and a capuchin monkey for use in TV, films, ads, and events. In June, we learned he was trying to sell his chimps. In July, his USDA exhibitor license was cancelled. In August, we learned of his arrest.
|Casey's ad started appearing in June, 2013|
PETA reported yesterday that they obtained records, through a public-records request, that reveal that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrested Casey last month at a roadside zoo, where he intended to sell three chimpanzees unlawfully. (Also see Las Vegas KLAS CH8 News reports.)
Why would Casey break the law to get rid of his chimps?
One reason is that he is probably desperate. He doesn’t have any place to keep them. For the past couple of years he has been living in Nevada, but his luck ran out. No county in Nevada will give a permit to keep chimpanzees in a community where parents want to keep their kids safe. Clark County denied him a permit last year. Nye County authorities denied a permit this year. No responsible local government wants him and his chimpanzees, for good reason. Mark Winer, a Casey friend, told KLAS News that the “chimps were kept in cages inside a darkened, brutally hot recreational vehicle and were rarely allowed out. ‘He would absolutely hit them atop the head with his knuckles,’ Winer said. ‘(The RV) was horrible. I wouldn't stay in there. I wouldn't let my worst enemy stay in there.” Amazingly, after talking to Casey in 2011, USDA APHIS Animal Care Inspector Warren Striplin recommended that the APHIS Office of Investigative and Enforcement Services conduct an official investigation of Casey. Even more amazingly (or maybe not), investigators evidently declined.
Maybe Casey was trying to sell illegally because owning chimps isn’t as fun as, say, a barrel of monkeys. While Casey cuddles with his adorable chimps in public, and displays pictures of kids cuddling with them as well, his friends know the real story. Again, from Winer: “He would pound on the cage, yell, take a stick and hit the cage or not feed them until they stop making noise. Mike has a very bad temper. He doesn't show that to the public.” Worse has been alleged. Winer said Casey cares about the chimps only because they are his meal ticket. If that’s the case, Casey has been on a starvation diet for the past couple of years, at least if he was telling the truth to federal Agricultural Department inspectors.
When animal exhibitors travel with their animals, they are required to file itineraries with USDA. In Casey’s case, his gigs have been few and far between. You can see the frustration in his itineraries. These are from his actual reports to USDA:
December 12, 2009: “We are traveling to Las Vegas & Pahrump, NV from Dec 12-January 12, 2009, with (3) chimps Hannah, Kenzy & Bentley, and capuchin Abu. It has been really tough and slow for work out here in the Midwest. We will be looking for property & employment.”
January 12, 2010: “We are traveling between Las Vegas & Pahrump, NV and over to Southern, CA from Jan 12 - February 15, 2010, with (3) chimps Hannah, Kenzy & Bentley, and capuchin Abu. We are continuing to look for property. There has been no exhibiting of the animals if a job comes up I will notify you immediately.”
Again, on February 15, 2010: “We are traveling between Pahrump, NV, Las Vegas and over to Southern, CA from Feb 16 - March 16 2010, with (3) chimps Hannah, Kenzy & Bentley, and capuchin Abu. We are continuing to look for property & work. There has been no exhibiting of the animals if a job comes up I will notify you immediately.”
April 10, 2010: “We are traveling between Las Vegas, down to Laughlin, Pahrump, NV & Southern CA from Apr 17 - May 17, 2010, with (3) chimps Hannah, Kenzy & Bentley, and capuchin Abu. We are continuing our search for property & work.”
May 8, 2010: “We are traveling between Las Vegas, NY and over to Southern, CA from April 25 - May 25 2010, with (3) chimps Hannah, Kenzy & Bentley, and capuchin Abu. We are continuing to look for property & work. There currently is a possibility of a day job on May 22 in Los Angeles, CA, I will notify you if it becomes a real job.”
In his reports through the summer, Casey continues to bemoan the lack of work, continuing through Sept 2 and 21, 2010, when Casey reports that “We are currently staying with a friend at his residence: [redacted] I am continuing to look for work and for property in Las Vegas or in California.” On Oct 15, Casey reports “We just moved to: [redacted] I am continuing to look for work and for property in Las Vegas or in California.” Then the reports end for at least six months. (More recent itinerary reports, if they exist, are not available.)
On June 27, 2013, the USDA inspector attempted to inspect the chimps’ living conditions. The inspector reported: "A responsible adult was not available to accompany APHIS Officials during the inspection process at 0830 on 6/27/2012. Spoke with Mr Casey by telephone at time of attempted inspection. He stated he was out of town. He also stated he did not intend to pursue USDA licensing. Mr. Casey is currently licensed, but has not passed a site approval inspection. Until such time as he cancels his license, he remains subject to inspection."
On July 5, the USDA exhibitor license for JAMES M. CASEY, dba A "GREAT APE" EXPERIENCE, was cancelled. There is no more work for (3) chimps Hannah, Kenzy & Bentley, and capuchin Abu.
James “Mike” Casey has brought this mess down on himself. It is just really unfortunate that his chimps and monkey are the ones who have suffered, and continue to suffer. Casey had a chance to do the honorable thing, finally. But instead of working out an agreement with a reputable sanctuary, Casey allegedly tried to dump them in a roadside zoo in Florida. They were confiscated by Florida wildlife officials and are now at the non-accredited Suncoast Primate Sanctuary – an outfit that was in non-compliance with minimum conditions during USDA APHIS inspections in 2011 and 2013.
Time and public awareness have passed Casey by. The public is no longer willing to accept the idiocy of using chimpanzees in entertainment. It helps ease the outrage to know that Mike Casey may finally be held accountable. But the fate of Mike Casey’s chimpanzees and monkey are the real crime here. Let’s hope Florida officials give them a chance at a real life in a real legitimate sanctuary.