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Lake County Fair Pressured To End Monkeys Riding Dogs 'Banana Derby'

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Jul 14, 2015 6:10PM

Via Banana Derby Facebook Page

The "Banana Derby," a regular feature of the Lake County Fair where monkeys ride around on the backs of dogs, is under attack from local animal advocacy groups and county officials.

For the last six years, the Lake County Fair has contracted with Gilligan T. Monkey, LLC, a company which puts on the "Banana Derby" at events across the country. The company boasts that the animals can put on up to four shows a day, each lasting about 20 minutes and that the animals "meet or exceed USDA, State and Local requirements." The animals are all rescued, tour on the road for six months of the year and then live with the promoter's family the other six months as pets, according to the Daily Herald.

Philip Hendricks, the man who created the "derby," told the Birmingham News in 2009 that one day, at his South Carolina home, he saw his pet monkey, Bobo riding on the back of his adopted coon dog, Red. "I thought I should take this on the road," Hendricks said. "And the rest is history."

This video from the 2012 Lake County Fair should give you the gist of the act.

Despite the company's best assurances that the animals are being treated humanely, local officials are still trying to exert pressure on the fair to cancel the act. Lake County Board member Sandra Hart sent a letter to the Lake County Fair's board, requesting that they stop the event, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"We do not feel that paying a vendor to chain monkeys to the backs of dogs, rescue or otherwise, is the kind of attraction that the Lake County Fair should be endorsing," the letter read.

Since she wrote the letter, Hart told the Tribune that she has been joined by the Brookfield Zoo, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Humane Society and at least 3,500 people who signed a petition opposing the event.

But the Fair has no plans to get rid of the attraction, according to organizers.The promoter of the show, Philip Dolci, told CBS that he treats the animals with nothing but love and that the people of Lake County would be devastated if it left.

"His favorite trick is taking dollar bills. I mean, how would you abuse that animal, you know what I'm saying? We cook for them, we clean for them, my mom and wife make clothes for them. If I was doing something wrong, the people of Lake County wouldn't have brought their kids back for six years to see us. They say, 'We see the monkey every year.' They know the monkey's name. It's insanity, really."

Dolci had harsh words for the Brookfield Zoo, however, highlighting the recent exhibit malfunction that led to the death of dozens of stingrays at the zoo this week.

"They should be paying attention to that, instead of my business."

The Lake County Fair runs from July 29 through Aug. 2.