Pet shop

Pet store owner kept caged monkey for guinea pigs in apartment before it fell from balcony, court says


A pet shop owner kept a Marmoset monkey in a cage designed for guinea pigs in his apartment and fed him dog food before he was injured by falling from a balcony, said a tribunal.

Joseph Ghessen, 39, owner of Cally Pets in Islington, north London, reportedly housed “Nicky” in a cage that night which was “too small”.

The Westminster Magistrates’ Court also heard that Nicky did not have a proper toilet and, during the day, was left wandering around the Notting Hill apartment where Ghessen was also keeping several dogs.

Nicky went missing on June 9 last year, prompting Ghessen to alert the RSPCA and post a photo of the monkey on Facebook. She was found around 3:30 p.m. that day and examined by veterinarian Dr Abou-Zakr, who specializes in exotic animals.

Testifying by video link, Dr Alison Croning, director of the Monkey World Great Ape Rescue Center, said four other monkeys in Ghessen’s care were missing.

Ghessen insists he “did everything that was reasonable under the circumstances” and denies one count of failing to ensure animal welfare.

Joseph Ghessen (pictured above), 39, owner of Cally Pets in Islington, north London, reportedly housed ‘Nicky’ in a cage at night that was ‘too small’

Prosecutor Kate Chidgey told Westminster Magistrates Court marmosets should not be treated as ‘part of the family’ the way a dog or cat could be.

She said they are “wild and non-domesticated animals” and must be housed under special conditions.

Marmosets, also known as Zaris, are tiny New World monkeys from South America.

There are 22 species divided into four genera: Callithrix, Callibella, Cebuella and Mico. All four are part of the biological family Callitrichidae.

The prosecution also said Ghessen demonstrated “inadequate care,” such as not providing ultraviolet light and letting her eat dog and human food.

This is said to have led Nicky to have metabolic bone disease, low calcium levels, and reduced bone density.

She is also believed to have been through “stress and mental suffering”.

Dr Croning told the court, “She would have urinated and defecated in the cage, which would not have been appropriate.

‘This is very damaging. The apartment does not provide the surface tension they need. They often end up with bowed legs and poor skeletal structure ”.

She added, “There were five marmosets on her property according to our records, and now only one remains.

The Marmouset monkey in the cage supposedly designed for guinea pigs.  Nicky went missing on June 9 last year, prompting Ghessen to alert the RSPCA and post a photo of herself on Facebook

The Marmoset monkey in the cage supposedly designed for guinea pigs. Nicky went missing on June 9 last year, prompting Ghessen to alert the RSPCA and post a photo of herself on Facebook

“Frankly, I find that shocking. ”

The doctor also claimed that Nicky’s life was in danger when she climbed onto the balcony due to the space between the railings and the size of the handles.

She said: “Marmosets have claws on their fingers and toes that help them stand on branches.

“The balcony floor is covered with a grid. The railings are so far apart that a marmoset can fall through.

“The handles are so big they can’t get a hand around them. It is totally inappropriate. Apart from being captive, they are wild animals.

“When a wild animal is on a balcony like this, its instinct is to climb high up the ramp, but it is unable to climb safely.”

Dr Croning added, “Her life is in danger because she is unable to protect herself.

“I’m shocked this hasn’t happened before, but we don’t know if it happened with any of the others.”

After Nicky’s disappearance last year, Ghessen posted: “My marmoset is gone. Last seen on the balcony under mine in the back gardens of Westbourne Grove / Needham Road.

“I went straight home when I heard he was there, but he left if anyone hears anything, please let me know as soon as possible.

“He could be injured, it’s a long fall, but we saw him run there.”

It is not known whether Ghessen, who according to Companies House owns a pet store and a “journalists club” restaurant in West London, knew that Nicky was a woman.

Dr Abou-Zakr, who examined the monkey after its disappearance, found that she was “happy to be gently petted and would put a human arm on her shoulder”.

But Nicky had bruises on her abdomen and suffered from hair loss around her stomach, sides and tail.

She also had “moderate” bruises and a crusty sore under her chin, which could have been caused by a fall.

Ghessen, from Notting Hill, west London, denies one count of animal welfare violations and the trial continues (Photo: Westminster Magistrates Court file photo)

Ghessen, from Notting Hill, west London, denies one count of animal welfare violations and the trial continues (Photo: Westminster Magistrates Court file photo)

Ghessen is also said to have caused the monkey unnecessary suffering by failing to provide him with a mate after his other marmoset died in 2015.

Callum Isitt, an RSPCA inspector who found the animal near Ghassen’s apartment, sat in the public gallery to watch the trial.

He said: “Nicky is now in a private zoo in an undisclosed location – in case there is a rescue attempt.

“She’s been there nine months. She has another marmoset to play with.

“She’s a vasectomized male so no babies, but she now has a large indoor and outdoor enclosure and is happily enjoying life with the male.”

Ghessen owns the Frontline Club in Westminster which, according to its website, is “a gathering place for journalists, photographers and other like-minded people interested in international affairs”.

He is also listed as the manager of a “breeder and supplier of quality cattle to the people for the people” called Jungle Joe’s, which provides pick-up and shipping service.

Ghessen, from Notting Hill, denies one count of failing to look after animal welfare.

The trial continues.


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