Mookie the monkey quarantined after biting man on the leg

10:31 AM, Oct 2, 2012   |    comments
Brad Berman in 2003 with his Capuchin monkey, Mookie, who he has owned for 20 years.
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Merritt Island, Florida (FL Today) -- A 19-year-old pet monkey is on house arrest after he bit a man on Merritt Island during the weekend, officials said.

The white-faced Capuchin monkey, Mookie, is quarantined at owner Brad Berman's home until he can be cleared of all viruses by a veterinarian, officials said. The bite happened Saturday near a convenience store just west of the Cocoa Beach Causeway on Merritt Island.

"This individual and his girlfriend walk up to the beach, they're going to go wave riding or surfing, and there's a guy standing there holding a (Capuchin) monkey," Brevard County Animal Services Capt. Bob Brown said. The couple asked and began petting the monkey, officials said. "All of a sudden, a car comes into a parking lot and startles the monkey, and the monkey bites the guy on the shin," Brown said. The 32-year-old man, identified by officials as Justin Debree, could not be reached for comment Monday.

"He went inside and bought some hydrogen peroxide to clean (the wound), and then the owner with the monkey left," said Dr. Heidar Heshmati, director of Brevard County Health Department.

Berman said he apologized to the couple and told them Mookie had never bitten anyone before. Though the animal is low-risk to carry rabies, officials ordered the 30-day quarantine to be sure he doesn't show symptoms.

Berman said he has a permit from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to keep the monkey as a pet and said his animal doesn't have rabies. FWC could not be reached Monday to confirm Berman's permit. Berman said he was afraid about what might happen to his pet, who turns 20 next month. "For 20 years I've been taking him out almost every day," Berman said. "To keep him in his cage would be like prison. Which I guess is where he'll be for the next 30 days."

Heshmati said he couldn't remember a monkey bite in Brevard in several years. Brown said most of such bites occur between animal and owner, often when the owner is trying to recage the primate. "It's not highly unusual, but it is out of the ordinary," Brown said. "It's not like there's a zebra running around on (State Road) 520."

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