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Spider monkey put to death

Courtney Astolfi • Jan 21, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Jacob Ruehlman, of Vermilion Township, took Brodi, his white belly spider monkey, to Pat O’Brien Chevrolet on Jan. 14, where it bit an employee who asked to pet it, according to a Vermilion police report.    

Brodi’s tooth had punctured the worker’s thumb and drew blood, leaving the man exposed to a myriad of possible diseases, including rabies, Erie County Health commissioner Pete Schade said.

Vermilion police told Ruehlman to quarantine the animal, similar to the procedure officers follow when handling dog bites. Schade said police were misinformed in telling Ruehlman to do so.

“There was never any quarantine considered for the monkey, and there is no known quarantine period for a monkey bite” Schade said.

By Wednesday, Ruehlman had allegedly spirited the animal off to its co-owner’s home in Marysville, just outside of Columbus, Schade said.

Officials seized Brodi from that home Friday and hauled it back to Erie County, per state law.

“Dissection of the brain stem is the only way to positively rule out the presence of rabies in any animal” Schade stated in a release.

Weather conditions and unexpected delays — namely the need to obtain a search warrant for the Marysville home, and an identification process using a microchip embedded in the animal — held up proceedings, Schade said.

The monkey made it back to Erie County late Friday and was euthanized, with state officials conducting rabies tests on its brain stem Saturday morning, Schade said.

Schade said the quick turnaround was necessary to ensure the bite victim’s health and the fact that Erie County had no way to house the monkey for an extended period of time.

In the days since Brodi was seized, a Change.org petition and Facebook page entitled “Justice for Brodi” has been created.

The petition contends a simple blood test could have determined if Brodi had rabies, and that the monkey was up-to-date on his rabies vaccination.

“Contrary to some of the information out there, there is no blood antigen tests we could’ve done in the presence of a mammal,” Schade said. “And it did have a rabies shot two years ago in Nebraska, but the kind of rabies inoculation they gave him doesn’t cover monkeys.”

Schade said he made the decision to euthanize the animal after several hours of discussion with state agriculture and health officials, along with experts from the Columbus Zoo.

“We had a guy who was bitten, and the only thing I could assure him is we could test the monkey right now to make sure it’s rabiesfree” Schade said.

“I am placing all the blame back on the owner. It is his fault,” Schade said. “When you have a pet monkey or exotic animal — whether you register it or license it is a side-point — you need to make sure you protect yourself and others”

In September, Jacob Ruehlman and his twin brother Michael Ruehlman were arrested in Lee County, Fla. after they allegedly stole two Gibbon monkeys that belonged to a woman they lived with in Nebraska, according to news agencies in Florida.

They were charged with dealing in stolen property, a felony, and the case is still pending. They were also charged with six misdemeanor offenses related to the improper sale and and handling of a wild animal.

That case is also pending.

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