Squirrel monkey haven looking for approval to open near Galt

The Haven would house around 50 squirrel monkeys that are coming from a laboratory research facility. The haven is still in the permit process but, many community members do not want to see it go any further. (Oct. 20, 2017)

An unusual neighbor dispute is going on just outside of Galt. A property owner on North Valensin Road wants to build a “Squirrel Monkey Haven” in a small neighborhood.

The Haven would house around 50 squirrel monkeys that are coming from a laboratory research facility. The haven is still in the permit process but, many community members do not want to see it go any further.

Zeina Claunch who would live right next to the property has a number of concerns including noise.

“Our bedroom window is facing the property," said Claunch.

The proposed monkey haven would be built at the edge of the North Valensin community on a 5 acre piece of land. Jeremy Edwards horse corral is two houses down from the proposed site and noise is not as big of a concern to him but, fear of an escape is.

“They could periodically get out and attack dogs, cats or human beings," said Edwards.

Disease is another unknown for Edwards. He is also concerned that monkeys will attract mosquitos, birds and flies.

“Numerous animals, horses on North Valensin road that have died from Western Nile Virus. So, this is a significant concern that these monkeys could endanger our environment," said Edwards.

Property value, traffic and even extra water use at the monkey haven is a concern.  

A permit notice for the haven is posted outside Christine and Paul Buckmaster house. They are the ones trying to build the Haven and the couple has a long history in animal care.

"I am a primate specialist and Paul is a licensed California veterinarian," said Christine Buckmaster who has worked with primates for more than 30 years.

The squirrel monkeys they hope to cage on their property would be coming from a laboratory that does behavior research.

"Things like games. Ask the monkey to make a decision and track it over time," said Buckmaster.

Regardless of what you think about animal testing, it’s happening and Christine Buckmaster says she wants to give captive primates a second chance. Laboratory monkeys are often killed during or after testing.

"There is a huge trend in testing facilities to retire the monkeys instead of euthanizing them. And that is what we are working towards," she said.

The Buckmasters want neighbors to know they are serious about the building, spending over $20,000 in just permit fees so far. They have also held public hearings about the facility and have made many changes to accommodate public concern.

"I think overtime once the neighbors get to know me the monkeys will sell themselves," said Buckmaster.

Getting a permit for a monkey sanctuary is not easy. Sacramento County requires an applicant to go through a number of environmental studies, public hearing and structural reviews.

Wendy Heartman is with the county Planning and Environmental Review and says the permit approval process for the Buckmasters could take several months to completed.

"Nothing is approved," said Heartman. "Everything goes through recommendation stages." 

One of the biggest changes to the monkey haven is what the structure will look like.

"It will look like similar to other dog kennels. There will be a large metal structure that will house the monkeys at night," she added. Heartman also says tall bushes and other natural features will hide the structure from view.

The proposed monkey sanctuary has a good chance for approval.

Eight miles from the Buckmasters house is another sanctuary called Performing Animal Welfare Society or PAWS, which is a sanctuary for retired laboratory primates is in high demand. It’s one of the few sanctuaries in the state that take in laboratory primates.  

"As long as there is a surplus of animals there is a need for sanctuaries," said Jill Foust, zoo keeper at The Folsom Zoo.

The Folsom Zoo currently has four Squirrel monkeys. The Chihuahua sized primate weighs about 1200 grams and the high-pitched chirping noise could be an annoyance to neighbors, but Foust believes people have little to fear from the squirrel monkey.

"I do believe people should look into what's going on in their community... but be smart about it don't jump to conclusions and educate yourself," said Foust.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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