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Carter the monkey escaped his owner’s car. Now he’s getting a new home in Texas.

tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

Carter the monkey, who escaped from his Charlotte, N.C., owner’s car in March and eluded searchers for a day, is headed to a new life at a primate sanctuary in San Antonio, Texas.

The rhesus macaque has been under the care of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Animal Care & Control Division since he opened his cage and a car door then scampered into the parking lot of Carolinas HealthCare System University.

He bit a hospital worker who tried to catch him, although subsequent tests showed Carter had no contagious diseases, said Melissa Knicely, spokeswoman for Animal Care & Control.

Carter’s owner, Nyeshia Miller, was charged with misdemeanor possession of an animal that is illegal to own in Mecklenburg County, N.C. In August, she surrendered her ownership rights in court in exchange for having the charge dropped.

North Carolina has no law that bans exotic animals such as Carter. But Mecklenburg County, like about half the counties in the state, does not monkey around and has exotic animal laws.

Leslie Wright remembers how frightened Carter looked when he was taken to the Animal Care & Control kennel

“He was scared to death,” said Wright, who works at the kennel. “I felt so sad for him. I said I’ll play Monkey Daddy, and we immediately bonded.”

In front of media cameras Tuesday, Wright held Carter by a leash attached to a puppy harness, as Carter darted about a room at the kennel. “He’s very quick,” Wright said. “It’s zero to 100 miles an hour. No in between.”

Wright also swung Carter by his legs. “He loves to be swung around,” Wright said. “He loves jumping into pillow cases.”

Carter chose Wright as his best friend and caretaker, Knicely said. But it took a team of dedicated staff, multiple organizations and lots of financial support to find a permanent home for Carter, she said.

The N.C. Zoo in Asheboro sterilized Carter for free and provided routine blood tests at no cost. Still, Carter’s medical care, food and supervision cost the city of Charlotte about $35,000, including administrative time to find Carter his permanent home, Knicely said. Part of the overall cost was covered by grants and private donations, she said.

Thanks to $6,000 from TV personality Bob Barker’s DJ&T Foundation, Carter is headed to Primarily Primates in San Antonio. The sanctuary will use the money to build Carter a green-space enclosure complete with a private heated bedroom and a fun barrel airplane.

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Carter is scheduled to leave in a car with Wright and fellow Animal Care & Control worker Kim Miller. The drive will take about 24 hours.

“Carter’s travel requests are bananas and fresh water and his portable DVD player, so he can watch his favorite movie “Ice Age” during his trip,” Miller said.

Once he arrives in Texas, Carter will be slowly introduced to a female companion, Tori, who happens to hail from Shelby and was surrendered to Primarily Primates in March. She, too, had been a pet.

“All of us were really excited for this day, but a little sad, too,” Knicely said on Tuesday morning as Carter dashed about in a nearby room.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

Carter’s transportation costs

Carter’s transportation to Primarily Primates in Texas is made possible by donations to Animal Care & Control. To donate, send a check made payable to City of Charlotte, with “Carter donation” in the memo line, to CMPD Animal Care & Control, c/o: Carter, 8315 Byrum Drive, Charlotte, NC 28217.

Follow Carter’s journey

Follow “Team Carter” members Leslie Wright and Kim Miller on their journey via the CMPD Animal Care and Control Facebook page and on Twitter at #TravelMonkey.

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