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That chimp didn’t go crazy...that chimp went Xanax!

Posted Feb 23 2009 10:11pm

One of my personal favorite Dolittler posts was titled after the immortal words of Chris Rock: “That tiger didn’t go crazy, that tiger went tiger!”

In case you don’t remember, that was the post that followed the Christmas Day mauling of three young men at the the San Francisco Zoo last year. It was a horrific event, capturing the nation’s googly-eyed greed for the violently salacious every bit as much as  that chimp  in Connecticut did a week back. 

 

 

In case you’re wondering why I’m just now gravitating towards the topic we all water-coolered about last week, let me disclaim: Every time I speak of monkeys or other wild animals kept as pets I manage to earn myself a crucifixion.

 

The last time I raised the issue of the AVMA’s welfare-oriented stance on keeping monkeys as pets (as in, home-kept monkeys are a bad bad idea), I might as well have posted on the evils of raising transgender pets for all the crazy flak I got. 

 

A freaked out chimp ripping off a woman’s face and getting stabbed with a butcher knife? Not so much my idea of a great post topic. By now, we all know the back story and its glaring moral. (As in, you’ve gotta be nuts to think a 200-pound chimp might not one day go chimpanzee on you.)

 

So why have I now decided it's worth a mention? Only because I recently learned that this chimpanzee was reportedly (according to his owner) given a valium-like sedative called Xanax (alprazolam) a few hours before the attack.

 

Therefore, it’s entirely possible this chimp might not have been as responsible for his wild animal instincts as we'd previously thought. In this case, it’s completely feasible that the chimp’s fatal romp might well have been given a chemical push. 

 

Yeah, I’m saying it: It just may be that this animal didn’t go chimp...perhaps he went Xanax instead. 

 

Ever given a kid some Benadryl and watched him spin around the room like a Tazmanian devil high on Pepsi and Pez? Or given your pet some storm phobia-prescribed doggie downers only to observe him as he acquires a distinctly Cujo-esque personality? 

 

It’s not uncommon for drugs to have unexpected results. But in the case of uppers or downers, the opposite reaction is common enough to be listed at the top of the drug’s list of side-effects. 

 

In the medical world this effect is called “paradoxical agitation” and it’s a possibility with a wide variety of the drugs we give our veterinary patients. That’s why sedatives, tranquilizers and anesthetics require greater vigilance against biting and other aggressive behaviors.

 

That’s also why I personally dislike the use of the tranquilizer called acepromazine. After all, the last thing you want from an aggressive animal is induced agitation (something I see more often with Ace than with other drugs).

 

Back to the chimp:

 

Despite the obvious potential for behavioral changes with a sedative like Xanax, the thing the media keeps harping on in this case is the potential effect of Lyme disease. To quote one of my internal medicine colleagues, “Lyme disease my a$$!” 

 

IMO, the Lyme disease is a red herring used to explain how a perfectly sweet Old Navy spokes-monkey could have turned a woman's face inside out--as if drugging him and keeping him in a suburban human home wasn't problematic enough.

 

Let's face it, no matter how you slice it, Lyme disease or poor choice of meds, this chimp’s explosive behavior was an accident waiting to happen...as it is with the vast majority of wild primates living in home settings. With primates in industrial and zoo settings, things like, “Why don't we try a little Xanax, today, BooBoo?” just do not happen. Home-bound primate owners, after all, tend not to follow OSHA standards for safety.

 

This last point is why there's a bill currently pending in the US Congress called The Captive Primate Safety Act. The goal of this HSUS-supported legislation is ostensibly to improve the safety of those who would be attacked by primates...and yet it only restricts the sale or transport of primates across state lines. As it stands, only 20 states ban primates as pets.

 

This new Federal legislation might strangle the trade across US state lines, but it won't end horrific events like the ones in Connecticut last week. And, more to the point, it won't keep primates out of the hands of non-professionals who have no business housing them in their homes, medicating them inadvisably, treating them like pseudo-humans and keeping the unethical, worldwide primate trade alive.

 

OK now, it’s your turn to crush the messenger...

 

 

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