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Jury Says Bar Owner Did Not Abuse Chimpanzee

June 15, 1987

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) _ A bar owner acquitted of animal abuse says he’ll try to improve the cage where his beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking chimp lives.

Kenneth Harris, who was found innocent by a Warren County jury, wouldn’t say whether he’ll cut out the chimp’s drinking and smoking, but did say, ″Sam can light my cigarette anytime he wants to.″

Tina Nelson, an investigator for the Great Lakes Region of the Humane Society of the United States, said she was shocked by the verdict. ″That poor chimp has to go back to that place,″ she said. ″The loser in this trial is the chimp.″

Ms. Nelson said Sam was kept in a filthy, windowless cage and given beer and lighted cigarettes.

″When Mr. Harris opened the door to Sam’s cage, Sam blinked. He was having trouble seeing. The bottom of the whole cage was extremely dirty,″ she said.

The jury deliberated two hours Saturday night before returning the verdict.

Harris, owner of the Train Stop Inn in Foster, was on trial on misdemeanor charge of animal abuse. ″I didn’t think they would find me guilty because I wasn’t,″ he said, adding that he wanted to get the 14-year-old chimp back as soon as possible so they could celebrate.

An Ohio State University primate expert testified that Sam showed behavior indicative of long confinement. Sarah Boynson, director of the primate cognition project at OSU, where Sam has been kept since he was seized April 15, said, ″Sam walks violently, with his weight forward, and he spends a lot of time sitting upside down.″

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