VERMILION — Every night, Brodi the spider monkey had a bottle of juice and a place to sleep in bed next to his owner, 20-year-old Jacob Ruehlman.
But Brodi was far from home Friday night.
After he bit a man at a Vermilion auto dealership Tuesday, the 2-year-old monkey was quarantined by police order at a house in Marysville.
About 8 p.m. Friday, representatives from The Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Union County Sheriff’s Office picked up Brodi and took him to Erie County, where he was euthanized by the Erie County Department of Health so he could be tested for rabies.
Ruehlman, of Vermilion, said he didn’t know about the death of the monkey he called his “best friend” until the next morning.
“All I do is (want to be) with Brodi,” Ruehlman said Saturday, after learning about Brodi’s death.
“I can’t even look in his room.”
The decision to euthanize Brodi came after an incident at Pat O’Brien Chevrolet on Tuesday, when Ruehlman and his brother took Brodi with them to the car dealership. The monkey remained in the car the entire time, but a dealership employee who was waiting on the brothers asked if Brodi was friendly and tried to pet him through the window, according to Ruehlman.
Brodi bit the man’s finger, drawing blood and sending the employee to the hospital, according to a police report.
Officers who responded to the scene told Ruehlman he had to quarantine the monkey for three days. They were later able to verify that the monkey had received a rabies vaccination in the spring of 2013 by a veterinarian in Missouri.
However, on Friday, Ruehlman’s life took a devastating turn when he was told that the Erie County Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture planned on euthanizing Brodi to check for rabies.
Erie County Health Commissioner Peter Schade, who said there is no rabies vaccination for monkeys, said the only way to check for rabies in primates is by analyzing them after they have died.
On Friday night, Brodi was picked up from where Ruehlman’s friend and fellow primate owner Diana Tanner was keeping him quarantined and taken to Erie County. He was euthanized at about midnight.
On Saturday, tests determined the monkey did not have rabies, according to Schade.
He said it was unfortunate that Brodi was euthanized, but he believes the county made the right decision.
“It’s a matter of time at this point,” Schade said, adding that the man who was bitten would have needed to get two rabies shots Tuesday if Brodi carried the disease.He said the man asked the Department of Health to test Brodi for rabies, and the department decided to do the testing as quickly as possible.
Ruehlman objected to the method used to test Brodi. He said he believes there are ways the Health Department could have checked for rabies other than killing Brodi.
“It’s like murdering a human,” he said.
Ruehlman, who raised the monkey from a young age, said Brodi was an enormous source of strength for him, especially when Ruehlman was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease two years ago and was told he wouldn’t live through surgery.
“He’s my best friend,” Ruehlman said, remembering how he found comfort in taking care of a young Brodi while he was going through surgery.
Since he first got Brodi more than two years ago, Ruehlman said he spends all of his time with the monkey, playing with him at the house, watching Netflix together before falling asleep and — Brodi’s favorite — giving the monkey a bath.
“He would spend so much time in the bath,” Ruehlman said.
Ruehlman added that in the past few months, his family had even been going through the process of applying for an exotic animal permit for Brodi.
Now, after Brodi’s death, Ruehlman wants one thing — to give his friend a proper burial.
“We would like to have Brodi’s remains,” he said.