Chimps Are Not People, New York Judge Rules

(CN) – Two chimpanzees kept in a laboratory at the state university in Stony Brook, N.Y., do not have the same legal rights as humans and will therefore remain at the facility, a Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled.
     Leo and Hercules, the 8-year-old chimpanzees at the center of the case, are used in locomotion studies at the university.
     The Nonhuman Rights Project of Coral Springs, Fla. filed a lawsuit on their behalf on March 19, arguing that the chimps should be transferred to a Florida animal sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives.
     “Hercules and Leo are autonomous and self-determining beings who possess the New York common law right to bodily liberty protected by the New York common law of habeas corpus and are entitled to petition this court for their liberty,” the group said in its filing.
     But past efforts to free other chimps in New York using habeas corpus have proven unsuccessful, and in the end, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe said she was bound by the precedent.
     “Animals, including chimpanzees and other highly intelligent mammals, are considered property under the law,” Jaffe wrote in her 33-page opinion. “They are accorded no legal rights beyond being guaranteed the right to be free from physical abuse and other mistreatment.”
     The judge said in deciding the case she was bound by December 2014 ruling in which New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, held that chimpanzees cannot be considered human under the law because they are incapable of being bound by any legal responsibilities and societal duties.
     “Efforts to extend legal rights to are … understandable,” Jaffe wrote. “Some day they may even succeed.”
     “For now, however, given the precedent to which I am bound, it is hereby ordered, that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied and the proceeding is dismissed,” she said.
     In a statement, the university said, “we acknowledge and are in the process of reviewing Judge Jaffe’s thoughtful decision.”
     The Nonhuman Rights Project, meanwhile, said its fight on Hercules and Leo’s behalf is not over, and that it will promptly appeal her decision to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department.
     The case on which Jaffe based her decision, involving a chimpanzee named Tommy, is now before the New York Court of Appeals pending the Nonhuman Rights Project ‘s request for further review.

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