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Monkey World News

Fury at 'paltry' fine on circus trainer

Guardian Unlimited

Animal rights campaigners last night condemned the fine instead of a jail sentence imposed yesterday on the circus trainer, Mary Chipperfield, for animal cruelty, saying it made a mockery of the work they had done. Chipperfield, aged 61, had been convicted in January of causing unnecessary suffering to Trudy, a baby chimpanzee whom she had beaten with a riding crop. Yesterday before stipendiary magistrate Roger House at Aldershot, Hampshire, she was fined 7,500. Her husband, Roger Cawley, was fined 1,000, having been found guilty of cruelty to a sick elephant.

The RSPCA later said it was disappointed, adding that the couple should not be allowed to work with animals again.

Their cruelty had been caught on camera by members of the pressure group Animal Defenders, who worked undercover at the couple's training farm.

At the hearing before Mr House at Andover in January, the court saw a video showing Chipperfield beating Trudy with a riding crop while trying to put her to bed. She also kicked her in the back up to 15 times while holding her by the arm, the court heard.

At one point, Chipperfield took away Trudy's ball, saying 'You can bloody cry' as she sobbed in the background.

Chipperfield denied causing the animal unnecessary pain, telling the court: 'I don't regret anything. I haven't done anything abusive to harm any of my animals.'

In a statement read out by her lawyer yesterday, Chipperfield who was mobbed by animal activists outside the court said she was not the ogre she had been portrayed as by the media, and she would continue to care for animals in a humane manner.

'As everyone is aware, my family and I have been involved with wild animals for many years and have always looked after them with compassion,' she said. 'I certainly regret my loss of patience which led me to be firmer than I should have been with disciplining Trudy.'

David Whittaker, in mitigation, told the court that the convictions had had a 'nothing less than catastrophic' effect on the couple. Their professional reputation 'lay in tatters' and their business was 'dangling by a thread'.

Jan Creamer, director of Animal Defenders, said: 'This was a paltry fine The magistrate had the power to remove their licence It makes a mockery of everything that we have done. We are going to have to go back to our own legal team to see what we can do about it.'

Mr House also ordered Chipperfield and her husband to pay 12,240 in costs.

Trudy, who turned three yesterday, is being cared for by the Monkey World Trust.

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