Ikea monkey is no wild animal - he was found in a diaper and coat, lawyer says

OSHAWA, Ont. – The lawyer for a woman who calls herself the Ikea monkey’s “mom” says laws about wild animals do not apply in this case because it’s clear the monkey was a domesticated pet — he was found wearing a diaper and a coat.

Yasmin Nakhuda, a Toronto real estate lawyer, is suing Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary in Sunderland, Ont., where Darwin the monkey has been held since he was found wandering an Ikea parking lot.

In his closing arguments at the trial Tuesday, her lawyer, Ted Charney, said the law that applies here is the city of Toronto’s bylaw, and a supervisor from Toronto animal services has testified he had no power to detain the monkey once its owner came to claim it.

Charney’s co-counsel said that Nakhuda did sign a form at animal services surrendering her ownership of Darwin, but the bylaw officers didn’t clearly explain its purpose and she thought she was surrendering the monkey just so they could perform public health tests.

There is so little case law in Canada on wild animals and property law that one of the few cases that lawyers on either side were able to dig up is from almost 100 years ago.

One antiquated case deals with a fox breeder suing a man who shot a fox that, unbeknownst to the breeder, had escaped and ran away. In that case the man who shot the fox couldn’t have been expected to know he belonged to someone, Charney argued, and that’s one way in which this case differs.

“Darwin didn’t leave Ms. Nakhuda and go wandering up to Sunderland and one day show up on Ms. Delaney’s farm,” he said. “And Darwin didn’t look like just any other monkey. He was in a diaper and a coat. It was clear that somebody owned him.”

Closing arguments from the lawyer for the sanctuary are set to be heard Tuesday afternoon. Court heard in the morning from sanctuary owner Sherri Delaney, who said she threatened to report Nakhuda to the law society.

Tensions have run high in the case since December when the Japanese macaque escaped from Nakhuda’s car and was picked up by Toronto animal services.

Delaney has testified that supporters of Nakhuda have threatened to kill her and burn the sanctuary down.

Under cross-examination today by Charney, Delaney admitted that she threatened to report Nakhuda to the Law Society of Upper Canada because she believes Nakhuda didn’t tell the truth under oath.

When Nakhuda first launched her lawsuit shortly after the Ikea incident, the sanctuary alleged that Nakhuda, her husband and her two children had abused Darwin — allegations that were withdrawn on the first day of the trial last month.

Charney, suggested in court Tuesday that the allegations were only made in the first place to discredit his client in the media.

“Are you aware that within 24 hours of delivering your defence those allegations of abuse…were headlines across the country?” Charney asked Delaney.

“I think your law office leaked them,” she replied.

“You think my office leaked your allegations of abuse to the media?” Charney said, incredulously. Delaney replied that’s what she recalled.

Charney suggested that one incendiary allegation, that Darwin was hit with a wooden spoon, was based on a letter Nakhuda had written in which she said she sometimes “brandished” a wooden spoon to get the monkey’s attention when he was misbehaving.

“Because someone brandished a spoon they must be…beating an animal with it?” Charney said.

“I’m simply saying that a wooden spoon is only a spoon unless someone has been meant to fear it,” Delaney replied.

The exchange came at the end of a tense cross-examination, which began with a drawn out exchange between Delaney and Charney in which they argued over whether she “adopted” Darwin or if he was “signed over” to her.

Delaney has testified that legally she is Darwin’s owner now as Nakhuda signed a form surrendering her ownership.