Should animal rights be extended to include choice of domicile? That issue is being hotly debated between two towns in the San Gabriel Valley, east of Los Angeles.
In the late 1960s, a Californian named St. James Davis rescued a chimpanzee after its mother was killed by poachers in Tanzania. But what promised to be a happy ending turned out to be only the beginning of a years-long quest to find "Moe" a proper abode.
Three years ago, Moe was removed from Davis' home in West Covina after he bit two humans. He has been caged in a national forest ever since. But Davis sued the city, claiming local officials had overreacted to the incidents. In a settlement, the city agreed to provide a home for Moe.
West Covina officials struck a deal to buy a building across from the county animal shelter in neighboring Baldwin Park, three miles from where Davis lives. Baldwin Park's city council, however, was not consulted about the idea. In an "emergency" meeting, the council balked at taking in the chimp, despite Davis' sporting a blue ribbon that Moe had received after riding in a Baldwin Park parade in 1972.
That left West Covina officials back where they had started--agreeing to pay for a home for Moe, but unable to find one for him. "The owners just don't understand that a full-grown chimp is not appropriate to be located in a residential neighborhood," says Mike Miller, a council member in West Covina. "They still believe he's part of the family."
For his part, Davis blames the city's attorney for his troubles, declaring, without apparent irony, "He's the one who threw a monkey wrench into my permit process from the very beginning."