The Nonhuman Rights Project filed a classic writ of habeas corpus, demanding that a chimp named Tommy be released from a cage in a Gloversville used-trailer lot.
It asks that the primate be the beneficiary of a trust that would house him in one of the eight facilities of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance.
“This petition asks this court to issue a writ recognizing that Tommy is not a legal thing to be possessed by respondents, but rather is a cognitively complex autonomous legal person with the fundamental legal right not to be imprisoned,” the court filing says.
Tommy’s owner argues the chimp is well cared for and has many toys. He says he rescued Tommy from a home where was badly treated.
“If they were to see where this chimp lived for the first 30 years of his life, they would jump up and down for joy about where he is now,” Patrick C. Lavery told The New York Times.
A ruling in favor of the writ would set chimps apart from other animals and could possibly trigger moves to confer similar rights to other non-human creatures.