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Charla Nash, Mauled by Chimp, Asks Congress for Stricter Laws on Primates as Pets

Jul 12, 2014 11:34 AM EDT

Charla Nash, a woman who was viciously mauled by a friend's chimpanzee in 2009, appeared in Washington, D.C. on Thursday asking Congress for stricter laws that would prevent people from keeping primates as pets.

The Connecticut woman received a face transplant after losing her nose, eyelids, lips, hands and eyesight - due to a disease contracted from the animal - by the pet ape, named Travis. Travis was killed after the incident.

"What happened to me must never happen to anyone again," Nash said at a press conference at Capitol Hill, organized by the Humane Society of the United States, The Connecticut Mirror reported.

The legislation in question, also backed by Sens. Barbara Boxer, David Vitter, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, would add "non-human primates" to the list of wild animals that cannot be transported or traded across state borders.

Called the "Captive Primates Safety Act," the 100-year-old law currently bans interstate sales of lions and tigers, but adding chimps to the list would hopefully prevent future attacks like Nash's as well as keep such animals from being abandoned, like they so often are, when they become older and more difficult to manage.

Travis, the chimp, was purchased in Missouri and transported to Connecticut where a friend of Nash's in Stamford kept him as a pet.

Since then, about 25 states have bans on keeping monkeys, apes and other primates as pets, but supporters of the bill say the animals are still easily obtained via the internet and from dealers, according to CBC News.

Blumenthal said animals like Travis are "ticking time bombs" and the attack on Nash could have been prevented.

"Non-human primates should not be sold or traded anywhere in the United States. Because they are unsafe to humans and they cannot be humanely cared for," he said at the news conference. "Wildlife should be kept in the wild."

Not only is it not a good situation for humans to have wildlife as pets, but also it's not good for the animals. Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said primates like Travis suffer when they are kept as pets. "They are highly intelligent and it is difficult to provide for their needs," he said.

If this bill is passed, it seems it would benefit both sides. It was first introduced in 2005 but has yet to make it through the Senate and House of Representatives in any session of Congress since then.

Backers of the bill hope Nash's presence in Washington this week will give Congress the push it needs to follow through.

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