Ikea monkey's owner transferred him voluntarily, court hears

A Toronto animal services officer says a woman who owned the Ikea monkey voluntarily signed a form transferring ownership.

Toronto animal control officer testifies that woman signed form surrendering ownership

Yasmin Nakhuda voluntarily signed a form surrendering ownership of Darwin the Ikea monkey, a Toronto animal control officer testified on Monday. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

A woman who refers to herself as the Ikea monkey's "mom" voluntarily signed over ownership of her pet, court heard Monday, though her lawyer questioned how she was persuaded to give up her beloved monkey.

Darwin, a Japanese macaque, was scooped up by animal control in an Ikea parking lot, where he had escaped from a locked crate in his owner's car while she was shopping.

Yasmin Nakhuda rushed to Toronto animal services to claim the monkey she says is like her son, only to sign a form surrendering her ownership of him. She didn't want to give him up, so something an animal services officer said must have changed her mind, her lawyer Ted Charney said in court Monday.

David Behan, who has been an animal services officer for 28 years, testified that he got an "odd" call that day in December that a monkey wearing a coat and a diaper had been picked up at Ikea. When Nakhuda showed up asking for her monkey back, Behan called a supervisor, he said.

Darwin, a Japanese macaque, escaped from a car in an Ikea parking lot last December. (Bronwyn Page/CBC)

It's illegal to have a pet monkey in Toronto, and while Behan had dealt with other prohibited animals before, he had never encountered such a situation involving a monkey, so he needed direction from the supervisor, he testified.

"My supervisor said, 'First ask if she'll surrender the animal to us,"' Behan testified. "I asked her openly if she would surrender the animal to us and she said yes."

Surely it wasn't as simple as that, Nakhuda's lawyer said.

"If you had just shown up in the room with the form and said, 'Ms. Nakhuda, please sign this form,' she would have never signed the form," Charney said. "You had to say more to her than, 'Please sign the form' in order for it to happen."

Health tests

After more questioning Behan said that "maybe" something he explained to her made her sign the form.

He told her that Darwin was a prohibited animal and she couldn't keep him in Toronto, he testified.

Nakhuda has testified that she thought that by signing the form she was temporarily surrendering Darwin so public health tests could be conducted on him. She only signed the form because the animal services officers threatened her with criminal charges and said the only way they would let her see Darwin one last time was if she signed the form, she said.

Behan said he never threatened criminal charges, he only told her that other agencies could get involved.

Nakhuda is suing Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, where Toronto animal services sent Darwin after seizing him, for recovery of personal property.