Man fights to keep his pet chimpanzees

Posted at 6:45 PM, May 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-09 07:07:09-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Good fences may make good neighbors, but apparently primates don't.  Hanover County’s Board of Supervisors is voting on whether Curtis Shepperson can keep his chimpanzees.

Under county rules the retiree is allowed to keep two chimps on his private farm in Mecanicsville off of Route 360. Three years ago the county discovered he was breaking the rules by keeping four additional chimps against county policy.

"There have been two escapes,” James Taylor, Hanover County’s Deputy Administrator, said. “Basically he wants to keep all six of them. He came to an agreement with the county two years ago part of the agreement would be to relocate four of the chimps."

In 2010, leaders gave Shepperson two years to find homes for the chimps. That deadline passed on December 23, 2012. Now a six-month extension is about to expire in late June.

County leaders said many neighbors support Shepperson's efforts to keep his chimp, but it comes down to a question of safety for county residents.

“Yes, it could be a little unsettling living next door to this,” Taylor said. “An animal expert says that these animals can be dangerous. The threat is real and it is there.”

Andy Hall lives across the street from Shepperson's property and is torn.  He doesn't want to see his neighbor lose his beloved animals, but he's also concerned about his family.

“That is a tough one,” Hall said. "You can always replace animals but people it's harder to replace them once they're gone."

In a December 2012 interview, Shepperson told CBS6 his chimps are like family and would be devastated to lose them.

Kip Davis has been leery about his neighbor keeping the chimps ever since another exotic pet, a spider monkey, got loose and ran on Davis' property.

“The animals are dangerous. I have bought weapons for my wife,” Davis, a former member of the Board of Supervisors in Hanover, said. “It's not a question of the will they escape. It's a question of when they will.”

Davis said he will attend the public hearing to urge the Board to reject Shepperson’s application to keep the animals.

“It is well documented that these animals can be vicious,” Davis said.

CBS6 spoke with Mr. Shepperson Wednesday afternoon. He declined an invitation to tell his side on camera