This week a hearing for my enterprise story was held in Senate Committee Room 1. I am following a bill that would require primate owners to obtain permits for their pets, but once this hearing got going, the bill turned into a whole other animal.

About 25 people sat in on the hearing who were opposed to the bill. Because of the limited time, the Agriculture Committee Chair, Brian Munzlinger, announced that only a few opponents could speak for three minutes each. After a heartfelt testimony by a source I spoke to last week, Dr. Eric Miller, a veterinarian at the St. Louis Zoo, the opposing side chose its three best speakers. Three women gave testimonies, all of whom are monkey breeders, and one of them was the woman who raised Travis, a chimpanzee who went ape in Kansas City. After the hearing I followed some of the people outside to get their contact information.

I approached one of the women who spoke fiercely in defense of her business and pets. I introduced myself and asked her kindly for her contact information. She gladly gave it to me and began to tell me some of her story. Mid-sentence she looked up and said, “You know what, I’m taking this piece of paper,” and she proceeded to rip her contact information from my notebook. She looked at me and explained that she was here to protect her “son,” referring to her pet monkey, and accused me of being a spy for the government to put her in some sort of danger. I assured her I was simply a reporter who was trying to get both sides of the story and present her case fairly, but she continued to barrage me with insults as if I was from the feds. I was completely blown away. Here I was, trying to get the story, and someone who felt so strongly about keeping her monkey not only refused to be interviewed, but insulted my credibility and integrity. I politely assured her I was harmless and walked away thanking her for her time.

I ended up finding someone else to interview, but I still can’t shake this woman from my head. I think I’ll start drawing up a business card or bringing my press pass around with me just in case. In any event, I held my ground and I’m proud of that.

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