Should Tommy the Chimp Be Granted 'Personhood' Status?
Animal rights activists are asking a court to recognize a chimpanzee as a person.
Tommy the chimpanzee lives in a temperature-controlled barn in upstate New York, where his owner has dropped $200,000 on the home. Tommy has seven different rooms – one where he sleeps, one where he likes to watch TV, and a few where he plays. His owner says he has complied with all regulations and has worked hard to keep Tommy happy.
But Nonhuman Rights Project is arguing that for Tommy, living alone is like a person being kept in solitary confinement. The group has filed a legal challenge and is trying to invoke habeas corpus, a legal procedure which entitles inmates to have a judge review their detention.
A court last year ruled that such rights do not apply to chimpanzees, but last week, the group asked a panel of appeals court judges to change that by declaring Tommy a person.
Corporations and ships have personhood status, which allows them to sue and be sued, but personhood has never been extended to animals.
If declared a person, activists say they would fight to send the chimp to a sanctuary in Florida and would work to extend to other animals.