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Hanover, VA—The owner of six chimpanzees must find new homes for four of the primates by June 23, or the animals may be euthanized.
Curtis Shepperson says he thinks of his chimps as his children, and affectionately referred to him as "my babies" while 8News cameras filmed them in their pens.
Shepperson raised two of the animals from infant hood; the other four, he rescued.
In 2010, two of the animals escaped briefly from their enclosure at Shepperson's home. Hanover County officials realized that Shepperson held realized that Shepperson held permits for only two out of his six chimpanzees.
Hanover's Assistant County Administrator Jim Taylor told 8News that they gave him two years to place the four animals without permits in a new home.
"At the time [of the animals' escape], the public safety personnel were just dealing with the situation that they had," said Taylor. "But then after the dust settled, that's when we sat down with Mr. Shepperson and said, ‘alright we need to figure this out.'"
In a December 2012 meeting, the two-year deadline was extended until June 23. Shepperson says in that meeting, officials talked with him about possibly euthanizing the four animals if he doesn't find homes for them.
The County says euthanization is a last resort, and they are confident that it won't come to pass.
"I don't think anyone wants to see that happen," said Taylor. "I don't expect it to come to that, but the fact is we need to find a solution and we need to find a place for these animals to go."
Shepperson says he can't understand why the animals must face the possibility of being put down.
"I don't know the words that I could really use for that. I don't know why any human being would come in and euthanize four healthy chimpanzees when they're perfectly fine right here."
Stay with 8News for updates.
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