A woman whose pet monkey was found wearing a shearling coat in a Toronto Ikea parking lot protested at a Toronto Animal Services office Wednesday as part of her efforts to get him back.
Yasmin Nakhuda alleges the tiny primate was illegally taken from her by animal control officials and moved to the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., where he now lives.
About 15 people urging animal services to “free Darwin” turned out to support Ms. Nakhuda, who is due in court Thursday to try to get an interim order to have the Japanese macaque named Darwin returned to her.
A filing from the sanctuary asks for an adjournment on several counts, including a request that it be given more time to gather evidence.
The young monkey captured worldwide attention earlier this month when he was spotted wandering the store parking lot in a little coat.
Ms. Nakhuda, a real estate lawyer, says she was never given the chance to remedy the situation after being fined $240 for breaking the city’s prohibited-animal bylaw.
“I’ve spoken to a number of people in the legal community and they do agree that there is no statute allowing the city to take an animal away based on the circumstances,” she said.
“Hopefully, based on the law, the judge will decide that Darwin should be returned to his rightful owner,” Ms. Nakhuda said at the protest.
In court documents, Ms. Nakhuda says she, her husband and their two kids would be willing to move to a city that allows monkeys in order to keep Darwin, whom they consider part of the family.
“If the judge decides that he would like to have him returned, which we are praying for, we would be in a position to say ‘yes, we have somewhere to go’,” she said.
“We can move to Kawartha Lakes,” Ms. Nakhuda said Wednesday when asked if she would considering uprooting from her Toronto home in order to keep Darwin.
Ms. Nakhuda said she hopes to have Darwin back by Christmas.
“I had bought his Santa Claus and Christmas dress, and his bow tie for the new year... he’s not here now to wear it”, she said.
The primate sanctuary about 100 kilometres northeast of Toronto has said the monkey is doing well and the agency was prepared to fight any legal challenges for its return.
“Nakhuda has no claim of ownership over a wild animal that is no longer in her possession,” the sanctuary said in its response to her filing to have Darwin returned.
The sanctuary also claims that it now owns Darwin, arguing that unlike domestic animals, wild animals are owned by the person that possesses them and Ms. Nakhuda voluntarily turned the monkey over to Toronto Animal Services.
None of the allegations contained in the documents have been tested in court.