Pet shop owner kept monkey in cage for Guinea pigs in flat court hears

Pet shop owner kept Marmoset monkey in cage for Guinea pigs in his flat and fed it dog food before it was injured falling from balcony, court hears

  • Joseph Ghessen, 39, said to have kept ‘Nicky’ in cage at night that was ‘too small’
  • Monkey went missing on June 9 last year, prompting Ghessen to alert the RSPCA
  • She was found and examined by a vet, who found injuries possibly caused by fall
  • Ghessen, from Notting Hill, denies one count of failing to ensure animal welfare

A pet shop owner kept a Marmoset monkey in a cage designed for Guinea pigs in his flat and fed it dog food before it was injured falling from a balcony, a court heard.

Joseph Ghessen, 39, who owns Cally Pets in Islington, North London, is alleged to have housed ‘Nicky’ in a cage at night that was ‘too small’.

Westminster Magistrates Court also heard that Nicky did not have proper toilet facilities and, in the daytime, was left to roam the Notting Hill flat where Ghessen also kept several dogs.

Nicky went missing on June 9 last year, prompting Ghessen to alert the RSPCA and post a picture of the monkey on Facebook. She was found at around 3.30pm that day and examined by vet Dr Abou-Zakr, who specialises in exotic animals.

Giving evidence via video-link, Dr Alison Croning, director of the ‘Monkey World’ ape rescue centre, said that four other monkeys in Ghessen’s care had gone missing.

Ghessen insists he ‘did everything that was reasonable in the circumstances’ and denies one count of failing to ensure animal welfare.  

Joseph Ghessen (pictured above), 39, who owns Cally Pets in Islington, North London, is alleged to have housed ‘Nicky’ in a cage at night that was ‘too small’

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

She said they are ‘wild, undomesticated animals’ and need to be housed in special conditions. 

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

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

The prosecution also said Ghessen showed ‘inadequate care’ such as failing to provide ultra violet lighting and letting her eat dog and human food.

It is said this led to Nicky having a metabolic bone disease, low levels of calcium and a reduction in bone density.

She is also thought to have gone through ‘stress and mental suffering’.

Dr Croning told the court: ‘She would have been urinating and defecating in the cage which would not have been appropriate.

‘It’s very detrimental. The apartment does not provide the surface tension they need. They often end up with bowed legs and bad skeletal structure’. 

She added: ‘There have been five marmosets in his property according to our records, and now we have only one remaining.

The Marmoset monkey in the cage allegedly designed for Guinea pigs. Nicky went missing on June 9 last year, prompting Ghessen to alert the RSPCA and post a picture of her on Facebook

‘Quite frankly I find it shocking.’ 

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

She said: ‘Marmosets have claws on their fingers and toes which help them to hold themselves up on branches.

‘The floor of the balcony is covered with a grid pattern. The railings are so far apart that a marmoset can fall through.

‘The handles are so large they can’t get their hands around them. It’s wholly inappropriate. Regardless of being captive they are wild animals.

‘When a wild animal is out on a balcony like that its instinct is to climb up high on to the hand rail but she is unable to climb safely.’

Dr Croning added: ‘Her life is in danger because she is unable to secure herself. 

‘I am shocked it hasn’t happened before, but we don’t know if it happened with any of the others.’ 

After Nicky vanished last year, Ghessen posted: ‘My marmoset is missing. Last seen on balcony below mine in the back gardens of Westbourne Grove/Needham Road.

‘I came straight home when I heard he was down there but he is gone if anybody hears anything please let me know ASAP.

‘He could be injured it’s a long drop but he was seen running around down there.’

It is unclear if Ghessen, who according to Companies House owns a pet shop and a restaurant ‘club for journalists’ in West London, knew Nicky is female.

Dr Abou-Zakr, who examined the monkey after she went missing, found that she was ‘happy to be gently stroked and would climb a human arm onto the shoulder.’

But Nicky had bruising to her abdomen and suffered from fur loss around the ventrum, flanks and tail.

She also had ‘moderate’ bruising and a scabbed wound under her chin, which could have been caused by a fall.

Ghessen, of Notting Hill, West London, denies one count of failing to ensure animal welfare and the trial continues (pictured: file photo of Westminster Magistrates Court)

Ghessen is also said to have caused the monkey unnecessary suffering by not providing her with a companion after his other marmoset died in 2015. 

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

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

‘She has been there for the past nine months. She has another marmoset to play with.

‘It’s a vasectomised male so no babies, but she now has a large inside 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 likeminded people interested in international affairs.’

He is also listed as the director of a ‘breeder and supplier of quality livestock to the people for the people’ called Jungle Joe’s, which offers a pick-up and shipping service.

Ghessen, of Notting Hill, denies one count of failing to ensure animal welfare.

The trial continues.

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