The question of whether a chimpanzee has the legal right not to be kept as an isolated captive in a dark cage has been playing out in the courts of New York since December 2013, when the Nonhuman Rights Project, an advocacy organization founded by an animal protection attorney, filed lawsuits on behalf of three captive chimps. Last Wednesday in Albany, oral arguments in the case of Tommy, a "26-year-old chimpanzee living in a used trailer lot in Gloversville, NY, isolated in a cage in a dark shed on the owner's property," were heard by the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department. His attorneys argued that Tommy, a self-aware and autonomous nonhuman animal, was a wrongly imprisoned common law "legal person" entitled a writ of habeas corpus.
Read more about the oral argument and the background of the case here and in a Wired article by Brandon Keim. Those interested in the legal theories and arguments used in animal protection law should also check out this page created by the Nonhuman Rights Project to illustrate how the arguments used in the New York cases might fare in the courts of other states.
Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat
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