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Published On: Mon, Mar 13th, 2017

New York court to rule on chimps being given ‘Personhood’ rights

The appellate division of the New York Supreme Court will hear oral arguments beginning Thursday in a case about whether two chimpanzees deserve the rights of “personhood.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project, representing Tommy and Kiko, two chimpanzees reported to be in their late 30s, has submitted a petition before the New York court, asking that Kiko not be considered a “legal thing to be possessed” but a “cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned.”

The petition starts by comparing the chimpanzee to slaves:

Common law courts, whose decisions are part of New York law, have issues writs of habeas corpus for slaves who were not legal persons at the time so that the issue of personhood and the legality of confinement could be resolved.

The petition continues:

New York statutory and common law do not limit legal personhood to homo sapiens and have already conferred legal personhood status on non-human domestic animals who are the beneficiaries of trusts . . . The affidavits submitted in support of this petition establish that chimpanzees possess such complex cognitive abilities as autonomy, self-determination, self-consciousness, awareness of the past, anticipation of the future, and the ability to make choices; display complex emotions such as empathy; and construct diverse cultures. The possession of these characteristics is sufficient to establish common law personhood and the consequential fundamental right to bodily liberty. The accompanying affidavits and memorandum of law establish that extending legal personhood to Petitioner is strongly supported by law, science, and history.

The petition states that Kiko is “being held captive” by The Primate Sanctuary, owned by Carmen and Christie Presti in Niagara Falls, N. Y.

“‘Personhood’ is not synonymous with ‘humans.’ It is not now and never has been,” the group’s founrder, Steve Wise told NBC News. “A ‘person’ is the law’s way of saying that entity has the capacity for rights. A ‘thing,’ which chimpanzees are now, don’t have capacity for any kind of rights.”

The Nonhuman Rights Project submitted its petition asking for a common law writ of habeas corpus regarding Tommy in 2013; it was denied.

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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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