Missy, a pet monkey that health officials wanted killed and tested for rabies, is dead, but her owner's fight against the system is not.

Joanne Kolodnicki, who fought Maryland and Anne Arundel County health officials for nearly a month, says she may take legal action against the county, which ordered the monkey quarantined for 28 days in a compromise agreement.

The monkey, which was retrieved from the shelter after officials reported that she was "pining away," died Monday afternoon at a Baltimore animal hospital, three days after being returned to her owner.

A county animal control officer said the animal died of a "broken heart."

The results of an autopsy today are expected to be released in several days. Under the compromise agreement, the county agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to the county animal shelter if Missy died because of poor treatment while at the shelter.

Deputy county solicitor Victor Sulin maintained today, however, that the county is not liable in Missy's death. Officials of the shelter said they did everything to care for and protect the monkey.

Kolodnicki said she will lobby for a change in state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene regulations that require the destruction of wild or exotic animals that bite humans. The only way such animals can be saved from destruction now is by a special exception from the state public health veterinarian, Dr. Kenneth Crawford.

Citing an increased incidence of rabies among wild animals in Maryland, health officials first demanded that Missy be killed--so her brain could be tested for rabies--after she bit Kolodnicki's father, John, 69, on the hand Aug. 6.

Kolodnicki subsequently sent her monkey into hiding, but turned her over when officials agreed to let the monkey live in quarantine after the elder Kolodnicki agreed to take a series of antirabies shots.

When Kolodnicki relinquished Missy Aug. 22, she said she feared the 13-year-old spider monkey would not survive in a cage at animal control headquarters in Glen Burnie.

Kolodnicki said she spent most of Labor Day weekend going back and forth to the Baltimore animal hospital, taking the monkey to be treated. Missy was receiving intravenous feedings and injections to combat fever, according to her owner.

The monkey was returned to Kolodnicki on Friday, in part because of a continued decline in its health, county officials said. The monkey was to have remained quarantined there until Sept. 16.

"I don't know what the cause of death was," said Jan Worrell, county animal control officer, "but I know she died of a broken heart. The stress was just too much for her ." Worrell said Missy refused to eat during her stay at the shelter, as she reportedly had since she was taken into hiding the second week of August. The monkey at the end of last week sat on her perch in a six-foot cage "with her hands on her knees and her chin in her hands, moping," Worrell said.

"I don't feel guilty," said Worrell, who confessed she became attached to the primate. "I did the best I could do. She was just like a baby."

Sulin said Missy's death was "very unfortunate," but added that the county did everything it could for her, including bringing in a veterinarian of Kolodnicki's choice. He said the county followed state guidelines in putting the monkey in quarantine.

Representatives of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could not be reached for comment.