NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Connecticut woman whose chimpanzee mauled and blinded her friend last year, leading to lawsuits and a national debate over regulating exotic pets, has died, her attorney said Tuesday.

Sandy Herold died Monday night of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, lawyer Robert Golger said. She was 72.

Herold’s 200-pound chimpanzee, Travis, went berserk in February 2009 after Herold asked her friend, Charla Nash, to help lure it back into her house in Stamford. The animal ripped off Nash’s hands, nose, lips and eyelids before the animal was shot and killed by police.

The chimpanzee’s rampage forced Herold to stab her pet with a butcher knife and pound him with a shovel. “For me to do something like that — put a knife in him — was like putting one in myself,” she said afterward.

Nash recently underwent a preliminary evaluation to determine whether she is a candidate for a face and hand transplant.

The mauling led Congress and state officials to consider strengthening laws against keeping exotic animals. A prosecutor said in December that Herold would not face criminal charges because there was no evidence she knowingly disregarded any risk Travis posed.

Nash’s family sued Herold for $50 million and wants to sue the state for $150 million, saying officials failed to prevent the attack.

“Our sympathies go out to her family,” said Bill Monaco, attorney for Nash’s family.

Golger and Monaco said they expected the suit to continue.