A court in New York State is set to decide whether chimpanzees can also be considered “legal persons” in what experts claim to be the first case ever of its kind. This is on the behalf of a 26y/o chimpanzee named Tommy whose human owner has left it to live alone in a dark and dank shed somewhere in New York’s upstate.
The case is represented by Lawyer Steven Wise who serves the animal rights group, Nonhuman Rights Project. They have been campaigning for several decades already to extend the protections that come with human rights to similarly intelligent animals. According to their website, their mission is to impact change in the common law status of at least some animals from being considered mere ‘things’, without any kind of legal right, to be better treated like ‘persons’ who have basic rights such as bodily liberty, bodily integrity, and other rights entitled to them by standards of human experience, scientific discovery and morality.
For Tommy’s case, Wise is seeking the ruling that the chimpanzee is being unlawfully imprisoned and that he should be passed on to a sanctuary in Florida where he can enjoy a better life. Arguments have already been heard in court and rulings are expected to come out in a few weeks.
Should the NY state appeal court rules in the chimp’s favor, other cases seeking extended rights to be granted to other high intelligence mammals like elephants and dolphins are certain to turn for the better.
Tommy’s owner, however, has waived his right to argue before court. However, he previously claimed that Tommy is actually living in a good facility and has been provided with lots of enrichments such as a stereo and a television set with cable. He additionally said that the chimp is actually a loner and likes to be by himself.