Tommy the Chimp will remain in his cage after the New York State Appellate Court ruled that Tommy is not a ‘person’ and thus is not entitled to human rights.

Nonhuman Rights Project Loses Appeal For Tommy

One year ago, the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in New York on behalf of Tommy, a chimp being kept alone in a cage by his owner. The Nonhuman Rights Project hoped to have the courts release Tommy from his cage – and owners – and allow them to place him in a sanctuary where he can be a bit more free and live with other chimps.

The organization filed a motion of habeas corpus “through which somebody who is being held captive… seeks relief by having a judge call upon his captors to show cause as to why they have the right to hold him.” For habeas corpus to be admitted, however, Tommy must be eligible for ‘personhood.’

On Thursday, a New York appeals court unanimously ruled against the Nonhuman Rights Project, stating that an animal such as a chimpanzee is not a person.

“[Steven Wise, lawyer for the Nonhuman Rights Project] requests that this court enlarge the common-law definition of ‘person’ in order to afford legal rights to an animal. We decline to do so, and conclude that a chimpanzee is not a ‘person’ entitled to the rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus,” wrote Presiding Justice Karen Peters.

This is the second ruling against Wise in Tommy’s case, which was previously heard by a lower court that also sided against granting Tommy personhood due to the legal responsibilities.

“In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights…that have been afforded to human beings,” the decision reads.

Tommy’s owner, Patrick Lavery, who keeps Tommy alone in a cage behind a trailer, has dismissed the suit before, insisting that Tommy enjoys his home and has access to a television on which eh watches cartoons. “He’s really got it good. He’s got a lot of enrichment,” Lavery said.

Following the decision, the Nonhuman Rights Project issued a statement declaring that it is already working on filing an appeal to the New York Court of Appeals.

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