When pet store owner Abbie McClain discovered Girl Scout cookie money, a laptop, and an exotic “bushbaby” monkey named Gooey went missing from her Oregon shop, she assumed a thief had broken in and stolen the goods.
But the truth, authorities say, was worse. According to police, McClain’s husband Nathan used the stolen money to fund a session with a sex worker, and offered the woman the exotic animal as a tip.
The McClains co-owned Zany Zoo Pets, a pet store and “educational petting zoo” in Eugene, Oregon. The store takes its petting zoo mission to heart, selling puppies and kittens alongside exotics like so-called “bushbabies,” a small, African primate also known as a galago. Adored across the Internet for their soft fur and massive eyes, bushbabies are coveted but difficult-to-obtain pets, illegal to own without a permit in Oregon.
This Oregon agricultural law became central to the investigation two weeks after Abbie McClain reported the March 1 burglary at Zany Zoo. During a search of a local hotel on March 17, Eugene police found an out-of-town sex worker living in a room with an unlicensed bushbaby, a criminal offense.
“In the state of Oregon, it is prohibited to possess an exotic animal without a license issued by the State Department of Agriculture,” police said in a statement. “The woman was cooperative, and provided a statement to detectives, along with the exotic animal.”
In her statement, the woman told police that she had received the bushbaby as “as a tip for her services,” and identified petstore owner Nathan McClain as the john who’d given her the exotic animal.
Police did not disclose the value of the stolen Girl Scout cookie money or laptop. But even offered as a tip, Gooey the bushbaby was likely worth more than the other stolen goods, combined. Bushbabies, currently listed as “Sold Out” on Zany Zoo’s website, sell for approximately $3,000 from most online breeders.
The next most expensive animals available at Zany Zoo are “Joey” and “Sam,” a pair of bonded parrots being sold together with their shared enclosure for $2,000. Gooey was likely the shop’s most expensive animal, making his theft and regifting to a prostitute a kind of double-betrayal for Abbie McClain.
“When Abbie heard about Nate’s possible wrongdoing, she immediately began getting his name off the business and banking accounts,” Zany Zoo wrote in an April 22 Facebook post. “Abbie and her kids are suffering right now through this tragedy and trying to figure out the best course of action. Thank you to those of you that understand this and are supporting Abbie.”
Nathan McClain is currently under arrest at the nearby Lane County Jail, awaiting trial on prostitution charges. Police did not disclose whether the sex worker will be charged for prostitution, or how she planned to care for a bushbaby, which requires an extensive enclosure and frequent social interaction, in her hotel room.
“Bushbabies exhibit significant stress when transported and relocated—generally, they do not do well in captivity,” the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance reports. “Bushbabies are social animals that live in complex family groups in the wild and they do not survive as well solitary pets.”
Gooey is currently safe in custody at a nearby animal sanctuary “until the USDA issues a new license for Zany Zoo Pet Store,” police say, after which he will likely be sold to a new owner.
“Please respect that the real victim here is Nathan’s family,” Zany Zoo wrote on its Facebook page. “Keep any negative comments off the Zany Zoo page as it is no longer affiliated with Nathan McClain.”