Missy has been saved. The black spider monkey that Anne Arundel County health officials wanted to put to death to test for rabies, because it bit its owner's father two weeks ago, won a reprieve today when its victim agreed to take rabies shots.
Under a compromise reached today with Missy's owner, Joanne Kolodnicki, Missy is to be turned over to animal control agents for a 28-day quarantine while her father, John Kolodnicki, 69, receives shots to immunize him against the disease, which is nearly always fatal in humans. He got the first three shots after today's court hearing.
But Joanne Kolodnicki said representatives of the International Primate Protection League, an animal protection group to which she turned over 13-year-old Missy for safekeeping, told her they will not return the primate because there are not sufficient assurances it still will not be killed.
"They think Missy is not protected enough," she said.
Deputy County Solicitor Victor Sulin, who is representing the county, said that under terms of today's agreement, whoever has possession of the monkey has until Friday afternoon to hand it over or face contempt of court proceedings.
Additionally, Kolodnicki and the group face a misdemeanor charge of disobeying county health officer J. Howard Beard's order last week to turn over the monkey, a crime which could result in a $500 fine. Henry E. Schwartz, assistant attorney general for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the state will decide next week whether to press charges.
Health officials, including Dr. Kenneth Crawford, state public health veterinarian, originally sought to have the monkey turned over to animal control agents to be killed so its brain could be examined for the rabies virus, in compliance with state regulations.
If the monkey shows no symptoms of rabies while it's quarantined, it will be returned to Kolodnicki under the order issued today by county Circuit Court Judge James L. Wray. If the county should harm the monkey, the county will have to pay a fine of $5,000 to the county animal shelter, Wray said.
Deputy County Solicitor Sulin said he is confident the county can properly care for the monkey and that "we would feel comfortable if the animal is going to be restrained for 25-30 days that it does not have rabies." The county health officer earlier said the rabies' incubation period in monkeys could be three to eight weeks.
Missy bit John Kolodnicki on the hand on Aug. 6 at his daughter's Glen Burnie house after he held onto his daughter's arm and the monkey apparently mistook his action for an attack.
Kolodnicki appeared in court this morning but declined to comment following the order. His daughter earlier said he agreed to take the shots, which he fought for nearly two weeks, saying health officials were harassing their family.
Kolodnicki said she relinquished Missy to people who called her last Tuesday and identified themselves as being with the International Primate Protection League. They came to her house and took Missy to save it from officials, she said. The people have called her daily to tell her how her pet is doing, but she said she does not know the individuals' names or whereabouts.