- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Nonhuman Rights Project has filed a petition with a New York court, asking that a chimp named Tommy — currently caged — be declared a legal person and given his accompanying rights, including freedom.

Steven M. Wise is the leader of the project, and he’s been formulating this strategy to bolster animal rights for years, The New York Times reported. And if successful, the group will file more petitions this week to help out another three chimps. Mr. Wise’s basic view: The fight for animal rights is akin to the fight against slavery and could take just as many years.

But he took a sizeable step toward realizing his group’s goal with the court filing, legal experts say. And it might just work: The Times reported one federal agency has just recently decided to let go chimps that are owned by the government, out of pressure from animal rights activists.

The chimp that Mr. Wise wants to now protect is named Tommy, and he’s in Gloversville, N.Y. Mr. Wise filed his case in State Supreme Court in Fulton County, N.Y., demanding legal person status for the chimp — and with that, court recognition for the animal’s right to be free. The petition specifies that Tommy shouldn’t be allowed to just wander the streets, but rather be placed and protected in a sanctuary.

The chimp is currently “being held captive in a cage in a shed at a used trailer lot,” the group said, in a statement, The Times reported.