OSHAWA, Ont. – The Ikea monkey’s self-described “mom” didn’t realize that she gave up ownership of her beloved pet by signing an animal services surrender form after his great escape, she testified Friday.
Yasmin Nakhuda wept as she described how she felt she had no choice but to sign the form that she thought was so animal services could take Darwin the monkey for medical tests. The animal services officer said if she signed the surrender form he would let her see Darwin.
“I was not going to walk out without at least making sure he was OK, Mr. Toyne, why don’t you understand that?” she said under cross-examination by Kevin Toyne, the lawyer for the primate sanctuary where Darwin now lives.
“He has anxiety disorders…I had no choice, Mr. Toyne. I needed to see him. I had to see him.”
Nakhuda has not seen Darwin since that day in December at Toronto Animal Services, and is in court suing Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in an attempt to get him back. She alleges she was tricked into signing the surrender form and is suing for recovery of personal property.
An animal services officer told her she could face criminal charges and if she didn’t sign the surrender form, the situation could get worse for her, she testified. The sanctuary’s lawyer has indicated the officer will testify that is not true.
After Darwin was seized at Ikea, animal services officers told Nakhuda he was a health hazard and needed to be sent for medical tests since she had no papers on him, she said. That’s what she thought the purpose of the form was, she said. Court heard Thursday that she bought Darwin from an exotic pet dealer in July 2012 for $5,000 cash.
Nakhuda, a real estate lawyer, ought to have known the legal meaning of the form, Toyne said, but Nakhuda disagreed.
“I don’t see why the surrender form would make me lose ownership of Darwin,” she said, adding she thought she was temporarily relinquishing him for testing. “I don’t understand why anybody sees this form as a transfer.”
Nakhuda’s common-law husband, Samar Kotach, also testified Friday and told largely the same story as Nakhuda of their attempts to get Darwin back at animal services.
He too broke down on the stand as he talked about the five months that Darwin lived with them and Nakhuda’s two sons, aged 16 and 12. He said he and Nakhuda were “out of it” that day at animal services.
“We were in a daze,” he said. “I’m telling you, it’s like being struck by a car. You cannot think.”