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November 17, 2010     Hays Free Press
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Page 4A NmS Chimp Attack: Caretaker says primate attacked her Continued from pg. 1A about what actually happened." At its peak, the 325-acre sanc- tuary offRanch Road 12 was home to more than 300 animals, including zebras, monkeys and retired chimpanzees from the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus. The sanctuary also functioned as an upscale bed and breakfast. Harris, a veterinary techni- cian, was living on the Glass' property following a divorce and helping to care for the animals, said her attorney, Scott Ogle. "I was honored to work with them," Harris said. "It was the best time of my life until this happened." Harris says the attack oc- curred on Nov. 6, 2007, as she was passing the chimpanzees wool blankets that she had purchased for them as pres- ents at an army surplus store. The dozen chimpanzees were housed together in a large caged habitat, and Harris believed they were safely behind bars. But she didn't realize that a rust hole, about 11 by 18 inches, was form- ing around the feeding tray, she said. As she pushed a blanket through the feeding tray, Ginny, the alpha female, found the rust hole and grabbed her hand. "The next thing I knew, my hand was through the feeder and she was eating it," Harris said. "I knew I couldn't scream because ifI screamed, all the other chimps would come down and rip my ann off. I just had to make eye contact." Ginny briefly released her hold on Harris, and she was able to pull her hand out of the cage, she said. Bleeding and in shock, she looked at her hand and real- ized her pinky finger on her right hand was gone, and her ring finger and middle finger were almost completely severed. Harris said she's lucky that Ginny was holding on to the blanket with one hand-oth- erwise, the chimp likely would have thrust her other hand through the hole to maul Harris' face.Since the attack, Harris said she's been through an emo- tional storm of flashbacks and post-traumatic stress, and is also trying to adapt to life without the full use of her dominant hand. "I'll tell you, it's changed my life," Harris said. "I only have the use of two fingers." Harris says she struggles ~th day to day tasks like brushing her teeth, and is slowly learning to use her left hand. After multiple surgeries, including transplants and skin grafts, her right hand is still disfigured and curls in a ball. "It's so gross," Harris said. "It's ugly, ugly, ugly. It looks like somebody ate my hand. But I'm so glad I have my face, and l'm so glad I'm alive."Her attomey said she has well over $100,000 in medical bills, and the owners have offered her $20,000. About 15 months after the attack, Harris lived through the trauma all over again. In Febru- ary of 2009, a pet chimpanzee named Travis mauled a Con- necticut woman. The chimp was shot and died after the attack, while Nash was left horrifically disfigured. Travis's brutal attack reminded America that even though young chimps maylook cute when they're dressed up in human clothes and appearing on car commercials, in reality they're wild animals that may act out with superhuman strength and aggression without waming. Shortly after the Connecticut attack, primate specialist Frans de Waal told Scientific American that chimp attacks were a com- mon occurrence. "Most of the time they attack through cage bars," de Waal said. "They bite off fingers. It hap- pens more often with people they don't knowverywell and people who aren't familiar with chimpanzees. But it has happened to many of the best scientists and researchers, who are now missing digits. So you have a very dangerous creature in front of you that is impossible to control." Harris' case isn't the first primate attack reported at Sunrise Ranch. In 1992, a chim- panzee bit a 15-year-old boy and threw an elderly woman to the ground, according to media reports from the time. Both were treated for minor injuries. Since 1995, captive primates have caused about 200 human injuries and one death, reports the People for the Ethical Treat- ment of Animals. Non-human primates can be kept as pets without restriction in 17 states, while 19 states prohibit private possession. Other states, includ- ing Texas, require owners to ob- tain a license.While she believes that chimpanzees should never be kept in homes as pets, Harris says she still can't decide ifthe privately owned animal sanctu- arywas an appropriate home for Ginny and the other chimps. Humans and adult chimps didn't interact at Sunrise Exotic Ranch, Harris said. However, she believes that the owners ignot~xl important safety precautions by not properly checking that the cages were intact. "From what I've heard, a lot of females will stand in front of those feeders, and urinate on them to mark their territo~ eventually rusting them," Harris said. "You have to do constant maintenance on the cages." Ginny, who was terminally ill with cancer at the time of the at- tack, has since passed away from natural causes, Harris said, and the rest of the chimps were sent to other sanctuaries. The Glass' attorney confirmed that the family is no longer oper- ating the exotic ranch. "The fact that they're not op- erating it has nothing to do with this incident,"Wright said. The civil case is headed to a jury trial this spring in Judge Garry Steel's district court, Ogle said. Shelton Retires: Coach steps down after 43rd season Continued from pg. 1A on a crisp October evening during the heart of a district season. "It's hard to measure what he's meant to our commu- nity," said Moe Johnson, who was Hays CISD superinten- dent from 1967-84. "The program at Hays High School has had a great reputation for a long time, and Bobby's been the one leading it." Johnson continued to sing Shelton's praises. "Both of my sons played for Coach Shelton, and I knew I never had to worry about them because he was teach- ing them the right things," Johnson said. "When your kids played for him you could always count on the fact he's going to treat them with class. If anyone ever asked me about Coach Shelton, that's what I would tell them - he's a class act." School board vice presi- dent Mark Jones has been to all but five of Hays' games since it opened more than four decades ago. "He's obviously given us a lot of stability," Jones said. "He ran a clean program and he always tried to teach his players poise, integrity and the value of hard work. It will definitely be strange not seeing him down there on the sidelines anymore." Former Hays All-State quarterback David Evans agreed it's hard to believe Shelton won't be coaching the Rebels next season. "My father, brother and uncles all played for Coach Shelton," Evans said. "He meant so much to everyone. He was a like a second father to a lot of his players." Former Hays running back Grant Coffey agreed. "He's been our foundation at Hays," Coffey said. "It was a real privilege to play for one of the elite coaches in the state." Steve Hardaway, the ment he and his assiistant All-State running back who coaches huddled witth players rushed for 2,200 yards and 32 and performed their' tradi- touchdowns for the Rebels in tional post-game chants one 1994, said playing for Shelton last time as a group. at Hays was a lifelong dream. "It's been wonderful to ',Coach Shelton is the face coach under someone who of Hays High School," Hard- taught us about the iimpor- away said. "It was always a tant things-in life," said Hays dream of mine to be a Rebel offensive coordinato,r Chris football player. The thing I Smith. "He's not onlyr a great remember most about him is coach but a great main." he was always cool, calm and Hays CISD superimtendent collected. I have a five-year- Dr. Jeremy Lyon said Shelton old son now and I wish he has made quite an innpres- would have had the chance to sion on him during l-his two play for Coach Shelton." years with the district. Hays senior defensive "You hear about fine legend lineman Austin Reyes said of Coach Bob Sheltom," Lyon Shelton's announcement took said. "But you could mot find him by surprise, a more genuine and lkind "It was a great honor to person. He's so well rfespected play for Coach Shelton," and I think that spealks vol- Reyes said. "He is an amaz- umes about how he's: been ing coach and my team- able to be successful at the mates and I will cherish the same place for 43 yeatrs." memories we made as Rebel Lyon said there has been football players." no timetable set on at search After Shelton's announce- for Shelton's replacennent. Registering for college takes time. Get an early start. Apply today. austincc.edu Start Here. G~et There. Hays Free Press November 17, 2010 S Sorry, just a amele bid ,for attention, Ii should tell you, though, _)ust how motivated y,our Mayor and C ty Council are t1 involve you in the p!votal rebrand ng of our c ty, Thls initiaiive will help shape how the World sees us thi, s next decade and beyond SO, please, take 5 minutes to participate in the online survey at: + /