Chamber nixes animal group from lineup

McHENRY – In response to recent animal mistreatment allegations, the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce has nixed booking a longtime Chicago-based animal exhibitor for its upcoming Fiesta Days.

Chamber President Kay Rial Bates said the executive board decided to cancel the scheduled traveling zoo appearance after being contacted by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA representatives allege that Ed and Annette’s Monkeys and More has kept animals in dirty cages and failed to provide cages that meet minimum space requirements. The nonprofit exotic rescue organization hosts animals such as primates, turtles and alligators and regularly exhibits them to the public.

The allegations also include a story of a baby chimpanzee named Lisa Marie. PETA claims that the chimp was transported to a Franklin Park event in a dark and undersized container with other animals.

“Using social, intelligent primates as entertainment props is cruel,” PETA Director Debbie Leahy said in a news release. “We applaud [the chamber] for making the compassionate decision to keep Fiesta Days cruelty-free.”

Monkeys and More owner Ed Parzygnat denied the allegations Friday. He said the group took in animals that were mistreated to care for them and teach children that exotic animals did not make good pets.

“In February, we did a family night in Franklin Park,” Parzygnat said. “Somebody took pictures of one of the crates and they said we had no air holes. What they did, is they took a picture of the crate on the wrong side. Like we’re going to keep an animal that is in a cage without air holes.”

Parzygnat said he had worked with primates and other exotic animals since 1979, and that his wife, Annette, had 19 years of experience.

He said the Fiesta Days booking was the only one that had been canceled.

“It’s a shame because the kids really love the animals a lot,” Parzygnat said. “The adults, too.”

According to recent federal inspection reports, the business was compliant as of May. A few inspection attempts had been made during months prior, but rescheduled because the Parzygnats were unavailable.

The business’ license as an animal exhibitor with the USDA expires in June 2010.

Monkeys and More had been a tradition during Fiesta Days for at least the past 10 years.

“There has never been any question as to whether the care of these pets was a concern, but it does appear that that has come into question recently,” Bates said. “Fiesta Days is all about families and children, and we did not want the controversy.”

Other family entertainment will include a youth theater performance, children’s karaoke, music and games.

Fiesta Days will be July 10-25.

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