No Monkey Business For Deerfield Resident Battling City Over Primates

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In the television series, The Monkeys, the theme song has a line that goes, “Hey, hey, we’re The Monkeys. You never know where we’ll be found.”

Monkeys have been found in a monkey manse in Nicole Davis’s back yard for three years, but now the Deerfield Beach resident finds herself with a bureaucratic monkey on her back. The city slapped her with a citation six weeks ago, saying she has to get rid of her white-faced marmosets(she has ten of them in an elaborate house in her back yard) after someone made an anonymous complaint. Davis says she’ll be a monkey’s uncle before she lets the city win this bit of primatal pugilism.

“I’m in compliance with all state laws and I should be able to keep my monkeys on the premises,” Davis said.

She has a state license to raise and sell the monkeys at her home in Deerfield Beach. The license lists her home address as the place where she is permitted to “possess” the monkeys for “exhibition or public sale.”

An opinion from the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission’s general counsel concludes that the state “constituion, statute and rules” prohibit local governments from enacting “ordinances relating to captive wildlife” that are in conflict with state law or regulations.

Deerfield’s ordinance on keeping animals on residential property says people may have “domesticated pets.” The ordinance makes no mention of monkeys, one way or the other. It does single out potbellied pigs and muscovy ducks as prohibited from being kept on residential property. Other species of ducks are allowed, but no more than two.

The city issued a statement saying it can decide where primates may be kept, state law apparently to the contrary notwithstanding.

“Section 10-4 of the City Code prohibits the keeping of wild animals within the city limits. We understand that Ms. Davis has a license to house wildlife, however, that does not mean that she can have them in Deerfield Beach. Her state license does not pre-empt the city’s zoning code,” city spokesperson Rebecca Stewart said. Davis says her monkeys aren’t “wild animals,” but desirable to anyone interested in having “a loveable, caring pet and special companion.”

Who is complaining? The call to city code enforcement was anonymous, but the Davenport family, living next door to Davis, has no issues with the monkeys. They could throw a monkey wrench from the front door of their home to the monkey house, which is in plain view.

“I’ve never had any noise issues or concerns and I’ve lived here for over two years,” said neighbor Nicholas Davenport. “I haven’t had any concerns about it.”

A CBS4 News crew found the monkeys in a clean, seemingly well-kept, double-screened shed on a concrete slab with its own drainage system and septic tank. The odor of monkey poop was smelled inside the enclosure, but not outside. The city has cited Davis for constructing the shed without a permit, but she argues she didn’t need a permit. State law, she claims, allows only the FWC to regulate permitted animals, and the construction of their housing.

Davis says it won’t be more fun than a barrel of monkeys, but she’ll stop at nothing to keep hers.

“Over the last thirty years, no city has ever won in one of these efforts,” Davis said of Deerfield’s attempt to get rid of her marmosets, which are small monkeys that can fetch a big price – up to $4,500 each. There is an adorability factor. “They’re just like little babies, and they stay pretty much a baby their whole life. They never grow up,” Davis said.

Speaking of babies, one of her monkeys gave birth to two more Tuesday morning.

At a hearing Tuesday at city hall, a code enforcement arbitrator decided not to decide the dispute between Davis and the city just yet, saying he will likely rule at a hearing November 22nd.

If the arbitrator rules against her, Davis said she won’t monkey around, but will take an immediate appeal to the courts. Davis is confident state law and previous legal rulings will see her eventually prevail.

More from Gary Nelson

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