Woman Who Faked Hollywood Chimpanzee’s Death Ordered to Pay Quarter of a Million Dollars to PETA

For Immediate Release:
March 28, 2023

Moira Colley 202-483-7382

Festus, Mo.

Notorious animal dealer Tonia Haddix, who faked the death of Tonka the chimpanzee, has been ordered by a federal court to pay $224,404.24 in attorneys’ fees and costs to PETA after she repeatedly committed perjury and submitted false information to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

To end PETA’s Endangered Species Act lawsuit against her and the Missouri Primate Foundation, Haddix agreed to a court order requiring her to transfer four chimpanzees to an accredited sanctuary and take specific steps to properly care for three chimpanzees to be left in her custody—but after Haddix failed to satisfy the conditions of the agreement, the court entered a contempt order against her and ordered PETA to transfer all seven chimpanzees to accredited sanctuaries. Instead of complying, Haddix claimed that one of the seven, Tonka—who appeared alongside actor Alan Cumming in the film Buddy—had died and that his body had been cremated in a backyard firepit. She then lied under oath about text messages she had sent saying that Tonka, who was supposedly dead, needed groceries. Eventually, she told a third party in a recorded phone call  that he was still alive but would be imminently euthanized, so PETA secured an emergency temporary restraining order to halt the planned euthanasia and ultimately discovered Tonka in a cage in Haddix’s basement.

“Tonia Haddix defied court orders and lied under oath, all so she could keep Tonka locked up alone in a cage, and PETA had to undertake enormous effort to rescue him and the six other chimpanzees in her custody,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel for Animal Law Jared Goodman. “This sanction sends a clear message that PETA won’t back down, and we look forward to putting the award to use helping other animals still caught in the clutches of exploiters like Haddix.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—notes that Tonka is currently enjoying life at Save the Chimps sanctuary in Florida following the group’s hard-fought push for his freedom from exploitation, which was supported by Cumming, who forged a close bond with him during filming.

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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