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Federal Judge Rules Against Woman and Her Monkey

A Springfield woman will have to go without her monkey while she is in restaurants due to a federal judge’s ruling on Wednesday. KSMU’s Matt Evans has more.

Debby Rose has been in and out of the news since 2006. That’s when the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said she could no longer take her bonnet macaque monkey with her to local restaurants.

Rose, a realtor and the founder of Wild Things Exotic Animal Orphanage, says her monkey is a service animal that helps her manage her anxiety disorder. After her monkey, who goes by Richard, was banned from local restaurants, Rose filed a lawsuit against the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, a local Walmart, and CoxHealth saying all three discriminated against her under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now, a federal judge has ruled that the monkey is not a service animal. Kevin Gipson is the director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and he says he thought the health department was right three years ago and the judge’s decision sustains their decision.

Gipson said the health department decided to ban the monkey from restaurants after determining that the animal’s presence was in violation of the Missouri Food Code.

“There are a couple of concerns: the aggressive nature of non-human primates, their hygiene comes into concern as well, and it just doesn’t make any good sense to have animals of any kind in food service establishments.”

In the ruling, the judge said the monkey did not help with any disability that Rose might have, but rather that the monkey was simply pet that comforted her. In the suit, Rose argued that the monkey helped her cope with agoraphobia, that’s an anxiety disorder which causes a person to feel unsafe in public places. However, the judge rejected her claims that she was disabled.

Rose’s attorney, Jim Arneson, declined to comment, except to say his client may appeal the ruling.

For KSMU News, I’m Matt Evans.