Spider monkey owner faces charges for attacks

OKEECHOBEE — Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has reportedly filed charges for a number of violations of Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) and Florida State Statutes against the owner of a spider monkey named Spanky.

According to FWC Captive Wildlife Reports by FWC Officers Jesse Alford and Stephen Krasco, Tina Darlene Ballard, 56, Northwest 154th Avenue, Okeechobee, will face charges for violations of Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) and Florida State Statutes. FWC stated that Ballard is currently in possession of the spider monkey.

FWC reports state the incident on June 4, was not Spanky’s first confrontation with an employee of Home Depot, with a prior incident having occurred on May 27. The owner of Spanky and his antics has been the most recent cause for concern in Okeechobee with regards to wildlife that FWC deems require a permit to possess.

Spanky reportedly attacked a Home Depot employee at approximately 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 27, and another employee at approximately 2 p.m. on Monday, June 4.

After the incident on June 4, an inspection of the wildlife facility that housed Spanky occurred. Ballard reportedly stated she did not have an enclosure the monkey regularly stayed in but presented FWC a large enclosure on the side of her home that measured 24.5 feet long by 40 feet wide and totaled 980 square feet. FWC officers found that Spanky’s enclosure was built with a variety of materials – 13 gauge fencing, 17 gauge hardware cloth and chicken wire – but none were found to meet the 11.5 gauge requirement or the strength equivalent and there was no safety entrance.

This is Spanky the monkey.

Ballard, according to FWC, had a Class III Wildlife License for Exhibition and Public Sale, but the license is due to expire Aug. 19, 2018.

Ballard stated that she purchased Spanky in Texas but apparently was unable to produce an importation permit for the monkey, noted the FWC reports. According to the owner’s website exhibiting Spanky, “She (Spanky) was a gift to my only daughter who is a heart transplant waiting list recipient. Spanky has brought much love and companionship to my daughter who has undergone three open-heart surgeries in her short life.” According to FWC reports Spanky’s rabies vaccination had expired, per documentation produced by Ballard to FWC.

Ballard is currently facing charges for violations of F.A.C. Rules 68A-6.0023: two counts of wildlife escaping from enclosure, cage, leash, or other constraint, or which results in injury to any person; one count of wildlife shall be tethered or controlled in such a manner as to prevent physical contact with the public and a structural safety barrier; and 68A-6.003: all cages or enclosures of Class I, II, III, capuchin, spider and woolly monkeys shall be equipped with a safety entrance; construction material shall consist of not less than 11.5 gauge chain link or equivalent; and was warned of her violations of Florida State Statutes for unlawful import or release into the state any species not native to Florida without a permit and for the failure to immunize any animal on exhibit capable of contracting or transmitting rabies.

Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) Rule 68A-6.0022 lists the requirements for possession of Class I, II, or III Wildlife in Captivity. Captive wildlife maintained under permit shall, unless otherwise authorized, be maintained only at the facility specified in the permit application and approved by FWC. Applicants for permits to possess wildlife in captivity shall specify the location of the facility at which the wildlife shall be kept or possessed. For Class I, II, III, capuchin, spider or woolly monkeys such facility shall be inspected and approved by FWC personnel prior to the issuance of the permit.

No permit shall be issued to any person to possess Class III wildlife for exhibition, sale or personal use unless such person can meet the following requirements: (1) 16 years of age or older; (2) Satisfactory completion of a questionnaire developed by FWC that assesses the applicant’s knowledge of general husbandry, nutritional, and behavioral characteristics; (3) For permits to possess capuchin, spider, or woolly monkeys applicants shall meet the age, experience and examination requirements for authorization to possess Class II wildlife; (4) Be able to provide satisfactory caging facilities as required in the standard caging requirements, set forth in F.A.C. Rule 68A-6.004, within 30 days of notification of tentative approval for a permit and; (5) Ensure that the conditions under which the wildlife will be held shall not constitute a threat to the public or to the animal.

According to F.A.C. Rule 68A-6.0023 General Regulations Governing Possession of Captive Wildlife; Public Contact; Transfer of Wildlife and Record Keeping Requirements, no person shall maintain captive wildlife in any unsafe or unsanitary condition, or in a manner which results in threats to the public safety, or the maltreatment or neglect of such wildlife. All wildlife possessed in captivity shall, except when supervised and controlled in accordance, be maintained in cages or enclosures constructed and maintained in compliance with the F.A.C. Cages or enclosures housing captive wildlife shall be sufficiently strong to prevent escape and to protect the caged animal from injury, and shall be equipped with structural safety barriers to prevent any physical contact with the caged animal by the public. Structural barriers may be constructed from materials such as fencing, moats, landscaping, or close-mesh wire, provided that materials used are safe and effective in preventing public contact.

Caging considered unsafe or otherwise not in compliance shall be reconstructed or repaired within 30 days after notification of such condition. In the event such condition results in a threat to human safety or the safety of the wildlife maintained, the wildlife maintained, at the direction of FWC, shall be immediately placed in an approved facility, at the expense of the permittee, owner, or possessor, until such time as the unsafe condition is remedied. In instances where wildlife is seized or taken into custody by FWC, said permittee, owner, or possessor of such wildlife shall be responsible for payment of all expenses relative to the animal’s capture, transport, boarding, veterinary care, or other costs associated with or incurred due to such seizures or custody. Such expenses shall be paid by said permittee, owner, or possessor upon any conviction or finding of guilt of a criminal or noncriminal violation, regardless of adjudication or plea entered, of any provision of Florida State Statute Chapters 379 or 828, rules of the FWC, or if such violation is disposed of under Florida State Statute Section 921.187.

Failure to pay such expenses shall be grounds for revocation or denial of permits to such individuals to possess wildlife.

Unconfined captive wildlife shall be maintained under rigid supervision and control, so as to prevent injuries to members of the public. No captive wildlife shall be tethered outdoors unsupervised. To provide for public safety, all wildlife shall be tethered or controlled in such a manner as to prevent physical contact with the public and a structural safety barrier.

All Class I, II or III wildlife that will be used for contact with the public shall have been evaluated by the exhibitor to insure compatibility with the uses intended. All wildlife shall be exhibited in a manner that prevents injuries to the public and the wildlife. The exhibitor shall take reasonable sanitary precautions to minimize the possibility of disease or parasite transmission which could adversely affect the health or welfare of citizens or wildlife. When any conditions exists that results in a threat to human safety, or the welfare of the wildlife, the animal(s) shall, at the direction of a FWC officer, be immediately removed from public contact for a time necessary to correct the unsafe or deficient condition.

Any condition which results in wildlife escaping from its enclosure, cage, leash, or other constraint, or which results in injury to any person, shall be considered a violation of F.A.C. Rule 68A-6.0023, which again states that no person shall maintain captive wildlife in any unsafe or unsanitary condition, or in a manner which results in threats to the public safety, or the maltreatment or neglect of such wildlife.

According to F.A.C. Rule 68A-6.004 Standard Caging Requirements for Captive Wildlife the caging requirement for one or two animals is a cage six feet wide by six feet long and eight feet high. For each additional animal, the cage size must be increased by 25 percent of the original floor area. Each cage shall have perching area(s) and shelter(s) that will accommodate all animal(s) in the enclosure simultaneously. Each cage shall also have a horizontal climbing apparatus. No captive wildlife shall be confined in any cage or other enclosure which contains more individual animals, or is smaller in dimension than as specified, or is not equipped as specified according to F.A.C.

According to F.A.C., wildlife cages and enclosures shall be equipped to provide for the protection and welfare of the animals. Such equipment includes, but is not limited to: a shelter, nest box or den; elevated platform or perching area; original floor area; gnawing and chewing items; and in addition to the above requirements, each additional cage or enclosure for primates shall have an accessible device to provide physical stimulation or manipulation compatible with the species. Such device shall be non-injurious, and may include, but is not limited to, boxes, balls, mirrors or foraging items.

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