This chimp got loose from its home and was wandering around Hwy. CC south of Festus.

This chimp got loose from the Missouri Primate Foundation at the end of June, 2020.

Tonia Haddix, who owns and cares for seven chimpanzees at the Missouri Primate Foundation,12338 Hwy. CC, south of Festus, is still battling with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

On April 7, a federal judge ruled that Haddix is in contempt of court for violating a settlement agreement she had reached with PETA in October 2020.

Haddix said she has been given 14 days to find a lawyer and come to new terms with PETA, or she will be fined $50 a day until she complies with the agreement.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry is hearing the case, which began in 2016 when PETA originally claimed the chimps were in danger under the care of Connie Casey, who previously owned them and ran Chimparty, which provided chimps for parties, television ads and movies.

PETA claimed the facility’s conditions were unfit for the animals.

That business was closed and replaced by the Missouri Primate Foundation animal sanctuary, and Haddix took over ownership of the sanctuary and the chimps.

Haddix said in an April 8 telephone interview that she had tried to comply with the agreement she reached with PETA, but the organization would not take the chimps she was supposed to give away as part of the deal.

She said she has stopped trying to communicate with PETA representatives and plans to join other people who have had their animals taken away because of PETA in a class action lawsuit against the animal rights group.

“I can no longer negotiate with PETA,” said Haddix, who has been representing herself in the lawsuit but plans to get a lawyer and try to strike a new deal before she starts being fined $50 a day.

In the October deal with PETA, Haddix agreed to transfer ownership of four chimps – Tammy, Connor, Candy and Kerry – to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Fla., which is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, according to the agreement.

The agreement also said Haddix would be allowed to retain ownership of three chimps – Crystal, Mikayla and Tonka – if she built habitats with specific space requirements and construction standards. She also had to hire a full-time chimp caregiver with at least two years of experience caring for captive chimps, hire a part-time maintenance worker and recruit experienced volunteers to provide care for the three chimps.

“The judge held Ms. Haddix in contempt because there is extensive evidence that we filed associated with this motion and presented during argument that she violated her obligations, and she has presented no evidence to the contrary as the court made clear during the hearing,” said Jared Goodman, a PETA lawyer.

Haddix said she originally planned to build a new facility in Stoddard County, southwest of Cape Girardeau but later decided to build the facility in Eldon, southwest of Jefferson City.

She said she has built a “night house” for the chimps in Eldon, but she has not constructed an outdoor holding facility because PETA rejected one she had, and she was unable to build a new outdoor pen during the winter.

Haddix said she also has hired a full-time caregiver and moved the three chimps she gets to keep to the new home in Eldon.

She said PETA lawyers claim she violated the deal because she told them she is leaving the Festus area, and someone from PETA needs to take care of the four chimps while the Florida facility is still being built.

“They (PETA) had told me when I signed the agreement they would take their chimpanzees the same time I took mine out of the facility, which was to be no more than eight months,” Haddix said. “I put pressure on them asking, ‘Who they wanted me to sign these chimps over to and are you guys going to come up and care for them? I am out of here. I am leaving. I have my three chimps, and you have to be responsible for yours.’

“That is when they got the temporary restraining order.”

Haddix said the restraining order is forcing her to stay at the Festus-area facility to care for the four chimps she agreed to give up.

“They want me to continue spending money through September,” said Haddix, adding that she spends about $1,000 a week feeding the seven chimps. “I asked the judge, ‘You are going to hold me captive to take care of chimps that don’t belong to me? She said yes.

“At the hearing I broke down. I said you are nuts. You took these chimps away from Connie because you said Connie abused them. But you are keeping them in the same place that Connie had supposedly abused them in. You don’t see anything wrong with keeping them there for a year? If it is about the chimps, why do you want them to stay a year longer? It is not about these chimps. This is about PETA’s agenda.”

Goodman said PETA wanted Haddix found in contempt because she had not fulfilled any of the consent decree.

“She was to provide monthly updates, including photographs of the status of the enclosure, and that was not done,” Goodman said. “The only photographs provided were of a property she had abandoned with false representations of the work that was done there.

“The consent agreement was a negotiated agreement. The parties exchanged drafts several times. Provisions were added at both parties’ requests. She signed up to be in this position, and for whatever reason, she has decided not to fulfill her obligations that she agreed to.”

Last year, three chimpanzees escaped from the Missouri Primate Foundation in separate incidents, one in June and the other in August.

In June, Makayla escaped from the facility and was seen on Hwy. CC attempting to open a car door before she was captured and returned to the facility. In August, Tammy and Kerry got out of the facility but never left the property before being tranquilized and returned.

A chimp had also escaped from the facility in 2001 and was shot and killed by Jason Coats, who was 17 at that time and said he was afraid the animal would hurt him.

Coats was convicted of felony destruction of property and misdemeanor animal abuse in connection with the incident and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and had to complete numerous programs.

“Because of the issues in Jefferson County and the escapes we have had, I have moved to a more rural county) so there is nobody next to the facility,” Haddix said.