Florida

Monkeys are no longer welcome at Carrabba’s after what this one did to an 8-year-old

JoJo the 9-month-old pet Capuchin monkey bit an 8-year-old child at a Carrbba’s Italian Grill in Stuart, Florida, leading to a policy change for the restaurant chain.
JoJo the 9-month-old pet Capuchin monkey bit an 8-year-old child at a Carrbba’s Italian Grill in Stuart, Florida, leading to a policy change for the restaurant chain. FWC

There will be no more ‘Monkey Mondays’ at the Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Stuart, Florida.

A local couple’s weekly tradition of eating outside on the patio while two of their pet monkeys, including 9-month-old Capuchin JoJo, joined was so popular customers and waitstaff called them “Monkey Mondays.” That ended last month when JoJo bit a child’s finger, according to a report filed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

On July 16, another diner approached Mary and Richard Van Houten and asked if his 8-year-old son Jaxson could pet their monkey sitting in a high chair at the table. They warned the man, Joseph Ignelzi, to be carful because JoJo was “being hyper.”

Jaxson pet the monkey and he and his father continued eating dinner. When it was time to leave, the boy went back to JoJo and “grabbed [her] trying to play,” according to the report. JoJo got scared and bit down on his pinky. The scared boy jerked away with a small cut. At the hospital, doctors cleaned his finger and sent him home.

FWC investigators checked out the Van Houten’s home, where they found proper food, water, cages and entertainment for JoJo and the couple’s four other pet monkeys: Kalani, Keegan, Elvis and KJ. JoJo was up to date on all her vaccinations except rabies, which the Van Houtens told FWC their veterinarian (incorrectly) said wasn’t a recognized vaccine for Florida monkeys.

Investigators cited the couple for not having the rabies vaccine, which they have since obtained for JoJo, and for owning an exotic pet that bit someone.

Ramona Cook, manager of the Carrabba’s where the bite happened, told the Miami Herald the company changed its policy — no more monkeys on the patio, only recognized service dogs and ponies.

“Like at Publix,” she said.

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