Two sheriffs and many deputies helped to found and run the former Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue, named for the chimp
PENDLETON, Oregon––Tamara Brogoitti, 68, closed the 800-acre Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue on the outskirts of Pendleton in January 2019.
Knowing she was no longer either physically or financially capable of running the sanctuary, looking after large and potentially dangerous animals, Brogoitti reluctantly transferred the last 15 horses in her care to Community Equine Outreach of Eastern Washington, in Mesa, Washington, 90 miles north.
But Brogoitti could not bring herself to give up one animal, the 18-year-old male chimpanzee Buck, for whom the sanctuary was named.
Chimp was never mentioned to news media
Buck, paradoxically, appears never to have been mentioned in news reports about the sanctuary until the morning of January 20, 2021.
But Buck’s presence had to have been known to the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Department for 17 years before a deputy shot him.
After all, Buck the chimp was, figuratively speaking, housed almost in their own back yard.
The Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue was barely a mile, as the crow flies, from the Umatilla County Jail. And Umatilla County Sheriff’s Department personnel were frequent friendly visitors, sometimes organizing work parties at the sanctuary, literally passing the Buck every time they stopped in or cruised past on the road.
Buck was grandfathered
Keeping chimpanzees as pets had been illegal in Oregon since 2010, but Buck was “grandfathered,” allowed to stay with Brogoitti for the rest of his life, and besides, at the time the Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue was a recognized sanctuary––albeit for horses, not for chimps.
Tamara Brogoitti on January 22, 2013 made a point of thanking two generations of Umatilla County Sheriffs at the retirement party for Sheriff John Trumbo.
“The farm animal sanctuary would not exist had he not supported it from the beginning,” Tamara Brogoitti wrote to the Pendleton East Oregonian.
“I remember the day I called him and asked if there were any animals who needed a home. It was a cold, snowy day two years after my husband’s sudden death. I had spent many sleepless nights wondering what I would do with my life and my land.
Sheriff “made the sanctuary a reality”
“I visited the sheriff’s office after that phone call. John had me talk to Undersheriff Terry Rowan,” his successor as sheriff, “about my idea for a farm animal sanctuary.
“Terry took the project under his wing and with his guidance and hard work made the sanctuary a reality.”
Buck was there from the beginning.
Explained Tamara Brogoitti in an April 2015 social media posting entitled “In memory of John Alex Brogoitti, January 7, 1938 – April 9, 2006.
“The sanctuary was founded as a memorial to my late husband John,” Tamara Brogoitti wrote, “by his adopted son Buck Alex Brogoitti. Buck is a chimpanzee whom John and I rescued from the pet trade in 2004. Buck was the love of John’s life; I didn’t mind playing second fiddle to an ape. Just watching the joy Buck brought to John’s life made me happy.
“Old redneck husband”
“Watching my old redneck husband tenderly change diapers and make bottles touched my heart,” Tamara Brogoitti added. “As a husband, John could try the patience of a saint, and the next moment make me laugh so hard I brought gum out my nose. I don’t know what more you could ask for in a marriage than laughter.”
John Alex Brogoitti was indeed an “old redneck,” 15 years older than Tamara, and proud of his “redneck” status, as a third-generation eastern Oregon rancher and 21-year volunteer for the annual Pendleton Rodeo.
A politically conservative Democrat, John Brogoitti skirmished with environmentalists for decades, beginning as a member of the Umatilla County Planning Commission in the 1970s.
John Brogoitti worked to elect former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber in 1994. Kitzhaber then appointed Brogoitti to the Northwest Power Planning & Conservation Council, but Brogiotti resigned from the council in August 2002, late in Kitzhaber’s second of three non-consecutive terms, on condition that Kitzhaber appoint a conservative Republican as his successor.
“Humans are at the top of the food chain”
“Humans are at the top of the food chain. Get over it!,” John Brogoitti raged in an open letter to Kitzhaber after his forced resignation. “That’s the natural order of life. How in the hell did it ever become fashionable to apologize for being a superior species?”
Tamara Brogoitti, described by Natalie Wheeler of the East Oregonian as “a passionate vegan,” had then been married to John Brogoitti for less than a year.
Both had been married before––John three times, according to some online references. Tamara was first married at age 18 to Robert Wade, ten years her elder, who died at age 71 in 2014. They had three daughters, April, Katherine, and Heather.
The youngest daughter, Heather Ann Wade, owner/operator of Benessere Olive Oils in Portland, Oregon, died at age 41 on August 28, 2017 in Camas, Washington.
Tamara Brogoitti finally brought herself to part with Buck Alex Brogoitti, the chimp, at about eight a.m. on January 20, 2021.
Then she made the decision in a hurry, to save the life of her eldest daughter, April Gilbo. Bitten on her arms, legs, and torso, Gilbo sought refuge in a basement bedroom, with Buck locked outside.
Buck “has attacked my 50-year-old daughter,” Tamara Brogoitti told an Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office 911 operator.
The recorded call was obtained and broadcast by KHQ-TV.
“She needs an ambulance. The ambulance cannot get to her. I’ve locked myself in the basement with her. I can’t get out to get my own gun,” Tamara Brogoitti continued.
“Never seen anything like this”
“She’s bleeding profusely. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Tamara Brogiotti told the dispatcher.
The 911 operator asked if Tamara Brogoitti was able to put pressure on her daughter’s wounds.
“I’m trying to guard her from a 200-pound ape,” Tamara Brogoitti explained, “so I can’t really put pressure on it, ma’am.”
Tamara Brogoitti went on to warn that the Umatilla County Sheriff´s Office should “send more than one [deputy] because the ape… if the ape gets a drop on him, he’s gone too. I’ve never seen anything like this,” she added. “He has got to be put down. You should arrive with backup, and should dispatch Buck with a head shot.”
Arriving within five minutes, a sheriff’s deputy found Buck at large, with a pit bull running back and forth in an exterior enclosure between them.
Trying to calm the pit bull, while affirming via cell phone that he had Tamara Brogoitti’s permission to shoot Buck, the deputy dropped Buck with a single head shot, as instructed.
Buck died on the spot. Tamara Brogoitti screamed for an ambulance.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] had previously “warned state authorities that Tamara Brogoitti had created a ticking time bomb by engaging in direct contact with a dangerous ape. Now he is dead and a woman has been mauled because of Brogoitti’s refusal to follow experts’ advice to transfer Buck to an accredited sanctuary,” PETA Foundation deputy general counsel for captive animal law enforcement Brittany Peet told KXLY television news, of Spokane, Washington.
“Since long before the chimpanzee Travis ripped a woman’s face off in 2009,” Peet continued, referring to victim Charla Nash of Stamford, Connecticut, “it has been clear that attacks are inevitable so long as people continue to treat chimpanzees like Chihuahuas.”
But while Buck Alex Brogoitti was acquired and raised as a pet chimp, his presence involved ongoing complicity by local law enforcement: the Umatilla Sheriff’s Office and every other agency which might have pointed out that a farmhouse with a backyard playground was not a suitable home for an adult chimp, whose playmate was a pit bull.
The Umatilla Sheriff’s Office is the same agency which, according to Showing Animals Respect & Kindness founder Steve Hindi, has long ignored allegedly illegal animal abuse at the annual Pendleton Rodeo.
Sheriff Trumbo and then-Undersheriff Rowan in 2005 refused even to meet with Hindi to discuss his video documentation of Pendleton Rodeo abuses, Hindi told ANIMALS 24-7.
Then-Oregon Humane Society executive director Warren Cox and investigator Robert “Bob” King Hillman had the same experience with the then-Pendleton County sheriff more than 40 years earlier.
Ignoring rodeo mayhem, and pet chimps, appear to be Pendleton County Sheriff’s Department traditions.
Sheriff & judge on sanctuary board
Explained East Oregonian reporter Phil Wright, when Tamara Brogoitti closed her sanctuary in 2019, “John Trumbo, former Umatilla County sheriff, worked with Brogoitti in 2010 to use her land to provide a home to horses the sheriff’s office seized in abuse and neglect cases.
“The large-animal sanctuary became a charitable nonprofit and operated under a six-member advisory board that included Umatilla County Sheriff Terry Rowan and Pendleton attorney Rob Collins, now Umatilla County circuit judge.
“Brogoitti said the board stopped meeting a few years ago and some of its members moved from Pendleton. She had to stop taking horses a while back and mortgaged her rentals and drained her savings to trudge on with the sanctuary. Her health is in decline and she continues to grieve for her daughter,” Heather. “With no more money coming in and only enough hay to last through the weekend for the 15 horses at the rescue, she was done.”
“I was at the breaking point,” Brogoitti admitted to Wright.
“Reached out on Facebook”
Continued Wright, “She reached out on Facebook, asking for donations of hay. Someone on Facebook notified Laura Zirjacks-Stark about the circumstances. Zirjacks-Stark is the president and co-founder of the nonprofit Community Equine Outreach of Eastern Washington.”
That led to the rescue and evacuation of the last Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue horses.
But questions should have been asked even before the Buck Brogoitti Animal Rescue debuted in 2010, incorporated in 2011, as to whether Tamara Brogoitti had any business operating an animal sanctuary in the first place, without substantial fundraising and animal care knowhow that she admitted she lacked.
“I can figure out which end of a horse the hay goes in”
“My name is Tamara Brogoitti and I don’t come from an agricultural background; on a good day, I can figure out which end of a horse the hay goes in,” she posted to social media when the sanctuary opened.
“I am determined to learn to help animals and I have a wonderful group of people on our advisory board to guide me,” Tamara Brogoitti professed. “When my husband suddenly died in 2006, the animals saved my life. Without the animals, there would have been no reason for me to wake up one more day. Now it’s time for me to repay the favor.”
By September 2014, however, an article by East Oregonian reporter Antonio Sierra indicated that Tamara Brogoitti was already struggling and likely to founder without much more substantial help than she was getting.
“Hundreds of horses on the waiting list”
“Twenty-one horses currently roam the sanctuary’s 800-acre plot, much to the confusion of the surrounding community on both sides of the issue,” Sierra wrote.
“Sanctuary director Tamara Brogoitti said some people criticize her for not taking on more horses, while others question how she’ll use the horses for profit,” Sierra continued. “Brogoitti said her nonprofit ranch may have a vast expanse of acreage, but the organization’s small budget doesn’t allow for more animals,” even as sheriff Rowan and others apparently pressured her to take more.
“Brogoitti is trying to set up an adoption drive to clear space for the hundreds of horses on the waiting list,” Sierra mentioned.
30 days in jail for shooting escaped chimp
The Buck Alex Brogoitti shooting was at least the fifth such incident involving a privately kept chimpanzee since 2001.
The first, in 2001, near Festus, Missouri, might have been the last, if animal advocates, lawmakers, and law enforcement had responded to the underlying problem, private owners breeding chimps for sale, instead of mobbing Jason Coats, 17, who encountered three chimps who had escaped from breeders Mike and Connie Braun Casey, shooting one of them dead.
“Public outrage over Coats’ actions followed, as did a trial and felony conviction for property damage and misdemeanor animal cruelty,” recalled St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Christine Byers after the February 2009 attack on Charla Nash.
Coats “spent 30 days in jail, and missed the birth of his first son, his first Father’s Day, his wife’s high school graduation, and their first anniversary,” Byers wrote.
“Circuit Judge Gary Kramer ordered Coats to write letters of apology to everyone who wrote to the court. Coats estimates he wrote about 300.”
Son of chimp Coats shot mauled Charla Nash
The chimp who mauled and blinded Charla Nash, Byers explained, “was the offspring of the chimp Coats shot.
“According to court records filed in the shooting case in 2001,” Byers continued, “Connie Braun Casey got started in the chimp business sometime in the late 1960s when she opened a pet shop called Braun’s Barn near Festus.
“She said she paid $12,000 for her first chimp, Coco, in 1975 and $16,000 for a female, Bridget.
“Casey estimated that she had sold 15 to 20 chimps since 1981,” Byers recounted. “At the time, she said each baby chimp sold for $40,000 to $50,000. She also estimated that she had 23 chimps at her facility in 2001 – many of whom performed at nursing homes, birthday parties and other area events.”
Continued to breed & sell chimps
By then the Caseys, who later divorced, operated under both the business name “Chimparty, entertainment for all ages,” and as the nonprofit Missouri Chimpanzee Sanctuary, claiming to keep chimps retired from show business, or discarded by roadside zoos, out of biomedical research.
They continued to breed and sell chimps even after a chimp bit off the tip of Mike Casey’s nose in 1992.
Sandra Herold of Stamford, Connecticut, bought Travis, “shortly after he was born,” Byers added. The chimp was 15 years old when he attacked Herold’s best friend,” Charla Nash, who had come to Herold’s house at her request to help calm Travis.
Nash lost her eyes, nose, lips, eyelids and hands before Travis bolted outside and was shot in the act of attacking a police car. Nash received an experimental face transplant in 2011, but experienced partial rejection of the transplanted tissue.
St. James & LaDonna Davis
Between the chimp escape from the Casey facilities and the attack on Charla Nash, former racing car driver St. James Davis on March 3, 2005 survived what were at the time described as the most severe animal attack that any human had ever lived through.
St. James and LaDonna Davis had in 1967 reportedly rescued a baby chimpanzee from poachers in Tanzania. They brought the baby chimp home to California with them, named him Moe, and kept him until 1998, when he bit off part of a female visitor’s finger.
In 1999 Moe was transferred to the former Animal Haven Ranch sanctuary near Los Angeles.
Took the cake
St. James and LaDonna Davis were frequent visitors until March 3, 2005, Moe’s 39th birthday, when they took him a cake.
Unknown to them, however, four other chimps escaped during their visit. Two of the escaped chimps, both males, charged them. One bit off LaDonna Davis’ thumb.
St. James Davis reportedly pushed her under a picnic table, but both of the escaped male chimps turned on him, gouging out an eye, tearing or biting off his lips, cheeks, nose, and fingers, his genitals, buttocks, and left foot.
Moe last seen heading over the hills
Animal Haven Ranch sanctuary staff ended the attack by shooting both attacking chimps dead.
Relocated to the Jungle Exotics sanctuary in Devore, California, Moe received several more visits from St. James and LaDonna Davis, but on June 27, 2008, Moe escaped into the San Bernardino mountains.
Grace Carlos Hilario, a 21-year-old lost hiker, was helicoptered out of the mountains two weeks later. Suffering from severe dehydration, but still lucid, and unaware a chimp was lost, Hilario told her rescuers that she had seen a “monkey” about 20 miles away from where Moe was last seen.
That was the last word from anyone concerning Moe’s fate.
Suncoast Primate Sanctuary
A little over a year after Charla Nash was attacked, Suncoast Primate Sanctuary volunteer Andrea Maturen suffered a badly broken arm and other injuries when two chimps escaped from an adjacent cage into a cage she was cleaning.
One of the two chimps, Shawn, attacked her.
“They both ended up outside the primate sanctuary,” reported Lorri Helfand of the St. Petersburg Times, “Maturen fought to break free, and tried to run inside, but Shawn followed her. Maturen finally had to lock herself in a bathroom to escape Shawn’s wrath.”
Transfer to sanctuary ordered
PETA finally sued Connie Braun Casey and the Missouri Primate Foundation for alleged violations of the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 2016. PETA finally won a court order in mid-2020 that four of the resident chimps be transferred to the Center for Great Apes in Wauchula, Florida, while new housing was to be built for the remaining three, who had reportedly escaped many times.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry further ordered that a former Missouri Primate Foundation chimp who had been repeatedly relocated, and was last known to be in custody of Kevin “Bhagavan” Antle, also be sent to the Center for Great Apes.
But the chimp show goes on
Connie Braun Casey, instead of transferring the four chimps to the Center for Great Apes, as ordered, apparently transferred all seven chimps who had been in her custody to Tonia Haddix, 51, of Festus.
Widowed in December 2020, Haddix claims to have spent $500,000 on the care and housing of the six surviving chimps; the seventh reportedly died on May 29, 2021, five days after suffering a heart attack at age 38.
Another chimp reportedly escaped from Haddix on June 2, 2021, but was recaptured without further incident.
As of June 8, 2021, Haddix had twice been found in contempt of court for refusing to surrender the surviving chimps, but had rallied political support through far-right online media, and vowed to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On what grounds this might be are unclear, since Haddix appears never to have had legal possession of the chimps in the first place.