Like many of you out there, we have been continuing to follow the horrific chimp attack story from last week.
As it turns out, a friend of Steve’s and one of the regular followers of Damned Connecticut — who asked we not use her real name on the site, so at Steve’s suggestion, we’ll go with “Luann van Houten” — once met Travis and his owner, Sandra Herold. And although she asked not to use her real name, she did send us this photo of her and Travis the chimp.
“Luann” also was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experience.
Damned CT: How long did you know Travis?
Luann: I only met him one time. I believe it was in 1997. I went over to his owner’s shop where Travis had a gymnasium and played with him in his gym for about an hour. It was surreal quite honestly.
Damned CT: When was the last time you saw Travis?
Luann: Aside from on TV, 1997.
Damned CT: Any indication or signs that something like this could happen?
Luann: When I was asked about the opportunity to play with him I was thrilled – who wouldn’t want to hang out with a chimpanzee?? When I got there I was told to put my hair up in a bun so he couldn’t pull it. He still managed to pull it and he also ripped the cuff right off my coat sleeve. He was very playful and loved to play “chase”. He would run up to you and shove you in the chest and then run away to get you to chase him. He was also affectionate and gave hugs and kisses. I was a little apprehensive though (as you can see in the picture). Even though he was just a little chimp at that time…he was solid muscle. At that time, I didn’t think he was any more aggressive than I would expect a young chimpanzee to be. I certainly didn’t fear for my life during my visit, but I was a little anxious about what he’d do next.
I don’t blame Travis for what happened. He’s a wild animal. In my opinion, he should have never been kept by the owners so long…animals are too unpredictable. And who gives an animal wine and xanax?
Damned CT: What was your general impression of his owner and how she treated him?
Luann: To be honest, I didn’t get a good vibe from the owner. She seemed a little “off”. I remember feeling that it was not a good scenario and I was uncomfortable with how she treated him.
Damned CT: How was Travis and his owner generally regarded by the neighborhood?
Luann: I think that Travis, when he was younger, was well liked and everyone enjoyed seeing him driving around or waving from the shop window. I think the older and larger he got, it became more concerning for the neighborhood – based on news/media info. I know I’d be freaked out to live next to a big ol’ chimp like Travis.
Damned CT: Do you still have any connection to the neighborhood, and if so, what have you heard about this situation?
Luann: No connection to the neighborhood. I only know the disturbing story on the news.
Damned CT: Were there children around the chimp ever?
Luann: Hearsay, but my brother (how I got to meet travis in the first place as my brother worked across the street from the owner’s shop) said the last day he was there it took 4 people to keep Travis from “playing” with the owner’s grandchild (I think the kid was like 3 or 5 years old). My brother said that’s the last time he went back as it was too weird.
No way in hell would I let Travis (back in 1997) near my kid.
Thanks to Luann for offering her perspective and sending us the picture.