PETA demands investigation after chimpanzees escape in Hanover

Published: Aug. 6, 2010 at 8:56 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2010 at 9:37 PM EDT
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By Melissa Correa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) – Down Bultaco Trail in Hanover County sits Windy Oaks, a private collection of exotic animals including six chimpanzees. Two weeks ago two of them got loose. Now PETA is asking the federal government to investigate the safety of the animals.

Friday, Curtis Shepperson, owner of Windy Oaks Animal Farm, declined an on-camera interview.

Shepperson says two weeks ago he was doing repairs on the cage when two of the six chimps got loose. The Hanover Sheriff's Office and Animal Control responded and caught one chimp. The second got spooked and ran off. Neighbors were notified.

Shepperson says the second chimp spent the night in woods. The next morning Animal Control officers located the chimp and he was taken back to Windy Oaks.

Shepperson was cited for violating his county permit, which only allows one chimpanzee. Hanover County says he needs to either get rid of five chimps or apply for a new permit. Windy Oaks is registered with local, state and federal agencies- including the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Back in 2009 two chimps got loose and were caught.

P.E.T.A. caught wind of this recent incident and claims the welfare of the chimps and the community may be at risk. It is asking for an investigation.

A U.S.D.A. spokesperson tells us it "will send an inspector to the facility to look into the allegations".

Windy Oaks is more than 20-years-old. Shepperson tells us, it was "a heartbreaking error." He says he's replaced on the locks and only he has access to the cage.

We checked with the USDA, so far there is no investigation into Mr. Shepperson or Windy Oaks.

Press Release from P.E.T.A.:


Public, Animals Were Put at Risk and Law Was Likely Violated, Says Group

Mechanicsville, Va. — PETA sent an urgent letter today to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking the agency to investigate the escape last month of several chimpanzees from Windy Oaks, an unaccredited zoo. The escape indicates likely violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act's primate housing requirements. Windy Oaks was cited last year by the USDA for similar violations, which also led to the escape of two chimpanzees. An adult chimpanzee has the strength of eight human adults and can easily overpower a person. Last year, a chimpanzee who was kept as a "pet" in Connecticut attacked a visiting neighbor, tearing off the woman's hands and much of her face.

PETA sent the letter to Dr. Elizabeth Goldentyer, eastern regional director of the USDA's animal care division, after receiving Hanover County Animal Control's report of the July 21 incident. The report revealed that all the chimpanzees at Windy Oaks escaped from the facility and that one male chimpanzee was on the loose overnight. Windy Oaks' attending veterinarian is cited in the report as saying that there have been three such escapes, that "it is a huge public safety issue to have these chimpanzees," and that she felt "it was too much" for the Windy Oaks staff to handle.

"Keeping chimpanzees in a roadside zoo does both the animals and the community a grave disservice," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "These primates should be sent to a sanctuary, where they can receive proper care and safe housing—and no longer endanger Windy Oaks' neighbors."

Animals in roadside zoos typically face endless hours and days in barren cages, sometimes in isolation, with little or no stimulation. As babies, these animals are often separated from their mothers and carted around to parties and shopping malls to be held by the public and photographed.

PETA's letter to Dr. Goldentyer is available upon request. For more information about PETA's work to protect animals, please visit

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