Nonhuman Rights Project fights for legal personhood of chimpanzee

By Jessica Rae Pulver-Adell,

Animal rights group Nonhuman Rights Project has filed for "legal personhood" of a chimpanzee residing in a Gloversville, New York trailer lot.

The chimps' name is Tommy, and he likes watching cartoons with his human family. The NRP filed the suit Monday in New York, demanding that the 26-year-old primate be released to live his life happily in an accredited sanctuary.

The courts officially document Tommy as "a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned," according to The New York Post.

The NRP claims that Tommy's incarceration in a "small, dank, cement cage in a cavernous dark shed" is inhumane and must be immediately addressed.

"To be a 'legal person,' one doesn't need to be a human being or even a biological being. A corporation is a legal person," wrote Joyce Tischler, co-founder of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, according to CNN. "We see that in children. They can be removed from an abusive home and be protected, even though the child might not be able to formulate those desires and the issues represented in the court of law."

Patrick Lavery, Tommy's owner, is protesting the lawsuit. He claims that Tommy is treated like a loving family member. “He’s so attached to us. When we get home, he’ll be so excited to see us,” Lavery told USA Today. “The chimp has color TV and cable. He watches cartoons.”

Lavery claims that Tommy is one of 11 chimps rescued from abusive homes, and that he is caring for him until a proper sanctuary takes Tommy into custody.


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