Pet or predator

By Claudia Shea - bio | email
Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

(WFLX) - A violent monkey attack this past February gained national attention; however, there are still people who keep wild animals as pets. But is it ever safe to raise these animals on your own?

A chimp out of control - behaving like a wild animal - destroyed the face of 55-year-old Charla Nash.

Keith Bauer wasn't surprised. He's been training wild animals for 28 years. "I've worked bears and lions and tigers and cougars and orangutan and chimps and baboons. I trained Zigfried and Roy's white tigers.

He did not train the tiger that attacked Roy's Horn in 2003. But, he says, it wasn't about the trainer; it was about the wild animal factor. "It's always there - no matter how long."

No matter how well-trained or seemingly tame, they're still wild animals, and Travis, the chimp who mauled Charla Nash, was 15 years old.

Bauer says once they're over five, they're too volatile. "Chimps are climbing the dominance ladder. There's nothing I can do to stop him when he's that big."

Sid Yost is one of the best and most controversial animal trainers in the country. His amazing animals productions is a popular source of talent for movies and television. They include: lions, tigers, bears, wolves and hawks, but no chimps - not anymore. Yost won't talk about why he's out of the chimp training business, but he doesn't miss it. "It's a numbers game. It's only a matter of time, no matter how good you are, before something happens."

Yost says there is always a danger of something going horribly wrong, but the danger is hundreds of times more significant when wild animals are living as people's pets.