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Chimp's Return Home Is Unlikely

Animals: West Covina drops lawsuit. But Moe, who bit two people in 1998, is likely to remain in a wildlife center.

July 21, 2001|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Moe the chimp isn't coming back to West Covina any time soon, contrary to rumor.

The City Council this week agreed to end a lawsuit it filed in 1999 that has prevented the ape from living at his owner's home for the last three years.

It's the latest chapter in the life of the pet chimpanzee exiled from West Covina after mauling a police officer's hand and chomping off a visitor's finger.

But City Atty. Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said Moe is not about to return to the home of St. James and La Donna Davis, who think of him as a son.

In 1998, Los Angeles County health officials removed the 34-year-old chimpanzee from the Davis home. Since then, he has been living at the Wildlife Waystation in Lake View Terrace.

Alvarez-Glasman said the agreement with the pet owners sets aside an order that banned Moe from living in West Covina.

The new agreement, however, requires that the couple not bring Moe back to town without a city permit. And that is not likely now, he said.

Alvarez-Glasman said no type of permit allows a chimp to live in the San Gabriel Valley community of 101,000. In October, the city adopted an ordinance that classifies chimpanzees, gibbons and similar animals as potentially dangerous wildlife and said permits for them could not be issued.

The city attorney said Moe cannot return unless the Davises challenge the existing law in court or succeed in having the permit ordinance amended.

La Donna Davis, in an interview Friday, said she believes progress is being made with the city, and she remains hopeful about bringing Moe home. "I am thankful the city has been fair and hope we can work on this situation. We need to take one step at a time," she said.

Officials said they dropped the lawsuit to stop spending more city money because an estimated $250,000 already has been spent on legal battles over Moe.

The trouble started in 1977 when Moe bit a woman and landed his owners in court, police said. But a judge dismissed the case.

In 1998, Moe escaped and, while cornered, severely bit an officer's hand, which required surgery and rehabilitation. Later that year, an Irwindale woman put her finger near his cage and he bit off the tip.

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