animalChimpanzeesmonkeymonkey story

Tommy the chimpanzee wants to be like you: Nonhuman rights group sues to make primate a LEGAL PERSON


Tommy the chimpanzee may soon become a human, at least in the eyes of the law.

A rights group sued Tommy’s owners today, in an attempt to free the 26-year-old primate so that he can live at a sanctuary.

The lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project, is petitioning a New York court to grant Tommy ‘legal personhood’ based on scientific evidence that chimpanzees have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

The group will also bring up precedents which granted freedom to slaves before they were emancipated and considered real people.

‘Not long ago, people generally agreed that human slaves could not be legal persons, but were simple the property of their owners,’ the non-profit’s president Steven Wise told USA Today. ‘We will assert, based on clear scientific evidence, that it’s time to take the next step and recognize that these non-human animals cannot continue to be exploited as the property of their human owners.’

The lawsuit also argues that New York state ‘does not limit legal personhood to homo sapiens’. The group plans on bringing up two similar lawsuits to free three other New York state chimps.

Wise and his group say that Tommy is being held against his will in a ‘small, dank, cement cage’ at his owner’s reindeer farm in Gloversville, New York and if given the choice, this is not how he would chose to live.

But his owners say that’s just not the case.


Tommy is one of 11 chimps that Patrick Lavery and his wife Diane have taken in from abusive or neglectful homes. They keep the chimps at their farm temporarily so that they can find a suitable sanctuary.

The Lavery’s have had Tommy for a decade and are still looking for a sanctuary close enough to their other home in Ocala, Florida so that they can visit him.

‘He’s actually my favorite. He’s so attached ot us when we get home, he’ll be so excited to see us,’ Mr Lavery said from Florida.

He says that Tommy is kept in a cage that exceeds state and federal standards and is inspected yearly. Its’ not ‘small’ or ‘dank; but a large area that has a door to an outside play area.

During the winter, Tommy stays inside in a building heated to 70 degrees, with the walls of his quarters painted to look like a jungle.

‘The chimp has a color TV and cable,’ Mr Lavery said., ‘He watches cartoons.’

And Mr Lavery is no rookie when it comes to chimp-keeping.

‘Ive got 20 years experience with chimpanzees. We’re not just some Joe Blow on the street who just happens to have a chimpanzee. I’ve had animals all my life. Horses, dogs, reindeer. It’s not a fly-by-night operations.’


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button