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But any apparent moment of legal clarity was soon hazed over by the end of Bland's ruling.
Rather than deciding whether Oyer and Kaumans could take Suco home or the city would take permanent custody, Bland left Suco's fate up in the air. Initially, he ordered the chimp to be removed from city limits, handing the owners an apparent victory. But Wilcher asked Bland to reconsider, on the grounds that the city had the right to give the chimp to a sanctuary or a zoo because the ordinance had been violated.
The ordinance states, in part, that if an animal that's declared to be dangerous is found within city limits, "it will be immediately seized and promptly destroyed or disposed of in some other manner ... including but not limited to giving such animal to a licensed refuge or zoo." Bland changed his ruling to state that Suco should be in the possession of Oyer, Archigo and Kaumans or somebody else legally allowed to possess her — apparently keeping her at the zoo.
The ruling left both the prosecution and Suco's owners a little baffled. While speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, Oyer asked the question on everybody's mind: "They said all we have to do is pick her up and get her out of here, right?"
Wilcher had a different interpretation of Bland's order, saying the city followed the law by delivering Suco to the zoo, and that's where she would stay.
"The city is not releasing [Suco] at this point, unless they get an order by the court otherwise," Wilcher said.
And the city doesn't think that will happen.
Kansas City's director of Neighborhood and Community Services, David Park, says the city is going to keep Suco at the zoo permanently. He says the city declared Suco a dangerous animal after a biting-and-scratching incident in 1994, after which the city briefly took possession of her. Oyer says it was never proved that Suco harmed anybody, and the city returned the chimp to her owners. The city changed its animal ordinances in 1995, prohibiting people from keeping or harboring primates within the city. With the ordinance change came a grim warning from the city. Officials notified the chimp's owners that if Suco was found within city limits again, she would be put down.
Oyer still claims that Suco is always kept beyond city limits, and that the chimp's long history of interacting with humans shows she isn't a danger to anybody.
Oyer says he got Suco in 1989, when she was a baby.
"It was an idea I came up with for an edge for my tree service," he says of the company he owned called Monkey Tree Service. "Originally, when I used to do it, she'd go up in the tree with me. She always came up in the tree with me, and we trimmed it down," he recalls.
In the tree or in the truck, the chimp proved to be a powerful marketing tool. "Let's say I trimmed your trees. What are you going to be talking about the next day?" he asks.
Suco even beat out good old-fashioned sex appeal.
"I've had some really good-looking gals. I've put them in their sports bras, and get 'em out there and have them rake up the yard and what have you. Nobody would be looking at the girls. They'd be looking at that chimp," he says.