In Defense of Animals Offers $2,000 Reward For Information on Monkey Killing

In Defense of Animals Offers $2,000 Reward For Information on Monkey Killing

Dodge City, KS (January 8, 2019) – In Defense of Animals is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the culprits behind a September 3 break-in at the Wright Park Zoo, which caused the death of a male capuchin monkey named Vern. Vern was attacked while trying to protect his son, called Pickett, from the intruders. Vern sustained a broken kneecap and was transferred to Kansas State University for surgery. Afterward, he was returned to the Zoo to recover, but he was later found unresponsive in his enclosure and passed away on October 29th. Vern’s son Pickett was discovered unharmed outside city limits on the morning after the attack, likely after being dumped there by his kidnappers. 

“We are offering a $2,000 reward to encourage anyone who has information regarding this violent attack, or negligence on Wright Park Zoo’s part which may have made the attack possible, to immediately come forward and relay it to the Dodge City Police Department,” said Marilyn Kroplick M.D., President of In Defense of Animals. “Violent criminals often practice their cruelty on animals before hurting humans. The perpetrators must be caught before they harm anyone else.”

“Vern’s tragic murder teaches us a lesson about the heroism of animals,” continued Matthew Hamity, In Defense of Animals’ Director of Campaigns and Legislative Affairs. “Vern immediately and without hesitation risked his life and safety to protect one of his children. This act of courage underscores our kinship with primates and other animals, and their right to be free from exploitation for entertainment in zoos.”

Wright Park Zoo has received over 40 citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), including violations related to lax security and unsafe enclosures. The Zoo has been cited for gaps around the public entrance fence, leaving perimeter gates open during construction, enclosure doors that don’t fully close, failing to keep primate enclosures sanitary and in good repair, and loose wire in the capuchin monkey enclosure.

Wright Park Zoo’s shocking history of Animal Welfare Act violations also includes failure to provide capuchin monkeys with water in sanitizable receptacles, failing to provide bedding for animals in sub-freezing temperatures, and failing to remove feces and dead birds from enclosures. 

The USDA has specifically cited Wright Park Zoo for neglecting primates’ mental health, such as inadequate enrichment plans for them and housing monkeys in solitary confinement without taking steps to ensure their psychological well-being. Inspectors observed a solitary Japanese macaque plucking out his hair during three inspections between 2015-2016. Wright Park Zoo failed to communicate these problems to its attending veterinarian, and inspectors noted that the monkey’s self-harming behavior worsened after he was given higher doses of anti-anxiety drugs.

Wright Park Zoo has a history of failing to keep animals safe and healthy,” added Matthew Hamity, In Defense of Animals’ Director of Campaigns and Legislative Affairs. “This avoidable tragedy should be the last to befall the monkeys. We call on the USDA to take heed of its own reports and rehome the animals of Wright Park Zoo to accredited sanctuaries, starting with the capuchins and other primates.” 


Contact: Matthew Hamity, Campaigns Director,, 847-721-9802

Image: Capuchin monkey victim, Vern. CREDIT Wright Park Zoo/Facebook:

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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 36-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare and habitats through education, campaigns and hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.