A New York court has ruled that chimpanzees cannot be granted legal personality because they are incapable of bearing the responsibilities that come with having legal rights.
In a first case of its kind, a five-judge panel of the Albany appeals court said Tommy, a 26-year-old chimp who lives alone in a shed in upstate New York, was an autonomous creature, but that it was not possible for him to understand the social contract that binds humans together, Reuters reported.
“Needless to say, unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions,” Justice Karen Peters said in the decision.
Steven Wise, who represented Tommy, said the primate had been unlawfully imprisoned by his owner, Patrick Lavery. Wise asked the court to order its release to a sanctuary in Florida.
He was acting on behalf of The Nonhuman Rights Project, which he co-founded in 2007.
The court advised Wise to lobby the state legislature to create new protections for chimps and other intelligent animals.
Lavery welcomed the ruling. He also said Tommy was receiving state-of-the-art care and was on a waiting list to be transferred to a sanctuary.
“It will be my decision where he goes and not someone else’s,” he said.
Wise plans to take the case to the Court of Appeals, New York state’s top court, the report said.
– Contact us at [email protected]