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Chimp Gets OK To Return Home To Tavern

July 8, 1987

LEBANON, Ohio (AP) _ Sam, the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking chimp, has a ″welcome home″ sign on his cage and his owner is planning a big party thanks to a judge who cleared the way for Sam’s homecoming.

Sam’s TV- and radio-equipped cage is in a building at the rear of the Train Stop Inn near here in southern Ohio. Sam’s owner, tavern proprietor Kenneth Harris, 55, says he spent more than $10,000 in attorney’s fees to get him back. Harris pledges to try to break the chimp of his vices. ″I’ve been cutting him down some,″ Harris said. ″He doesn’t like to smoke much. He’d rather light them.″

Sam was taken from Harris on April 15 after allegations of abuse were raised by the Humane Society of the United States, which said Harris kept Sam in a cage littered with jagged, empty soda cans.

A jury acquitted Harris of cruelty to animals on June 13. The Humane Society then filed a civil lawsuit against Harris, and Judge Neal Bronson issued a temporary restraining order that prevented Sam from going home.

He dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday, and the chimpanzee can leave the custody of Ohio State University veterinarians if no other appeals are filed.

Harris plans a party at the tavern Saturday afternoon, whether Sam is home or not. ″I feel great about it,″ Harris said. ″We’re going to blow up some balloons. I’ve got the sign already out.″

Harris’ attorney, James Sheets, was to contact lawyers for the Humane Society to determine when the chimp can come home.

Ohio State veterinarians have been keeping Sam since Warren County authorities and the Humane Society confiscated him on April 15.

Sheets said he will consider countersuing the Humane Society on a claim that it harassed Harris and hurt him financially.

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