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Missouri woman ordered to pay PETA in faked movie-star chimp's death

KTVI-TV St. Louis 3/28/2023 Joey Schneider
Missouri woman ordered to pay PETA in faked movie-star chimp's death © Provided by KTVI-TV St. Louis Missouri woman ordered to pay PETA in faked movie-star chimp's death

FESTUS, Mo. – A Missouri woman and animal dealer has been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands to PETA in a lawsuit over the faked death of a movie-star chimpanzee.

Tonia Haddix claimed the chimpanzee had died when she really had it locked in her basement. National nonprofit PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) previously filed a lawsuit claiming that Tonka and other chimpanzees were not getting proper care through Haddix and living in unsafe conditions.

A federal court ordered Haddix to pay more than $220,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to PETA to end the lawsuit, accusing Haddix and her husband repeatedly committed perjury and submitted false information to federal courts.

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The lawsuit contended that the two concocted an elaborate hoax when claiming Tonka had died, lied under oath about text messages she sent about Tonka at a time she previously deemed the chimp dead and tried to bribe federal marshals ordered to prevent Haddix from euthanizing Tonka.

"Tonia Haddix defied court orders and lied under oath, all so she could keep Tonka locked up alone in a cage, and PETA had to undertake enormous effort to rescue him and the six other chimpanzees in her custody," says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. "This sanction sends a clear message that PETA won't back down, and we look forward to putting the award to use helping other animals still caught in the clutches of exploiters like Haddix."

Before the latest court order, Haddix agreed to transfer four chimpanzees to an accredited sanctuary and take specific steps to properly care for three chimpanzees left in her custody. Federal prosecutors later entered a contempt order against her and ordered PETA to transfer all seven chimpanzees to accredited sanctuaries

According to PETA, Haddix claimed Tonka had died and that his body had been cremated in a backyard firepit. She then lied under oath about text messages she had sent saying that Tonka, who was supposedly dead, needed groceries.  

Per PETA, Haddix also told a third party in a recorded phone call that Tonka was still alive but would be imminently euthanized. PETA secured an emergency temporary restraining order amid the investigation, and authorities ultimately discovered Tonka in a cage in Haddix's basement.

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Haddix, amid pending prosecution, told FOX 2 last year that she was unable to talk on camera about the situation, but sent the following message in July: "I still stand on my promise to Tonka, and I would do anything to protect him from the evil clutches of PETA and the hell hole they placed him in. And that if the judicial system was just, he never would have left the only home he's ever known."

Tonka had co-starred in the 1997 film "George of the Jungle" and Alan Cumming film "Buddy."

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