Demand Legal Rights for Captive Chimpanzees

Target: New York State Supreme Court

Goal: Achieve legal personhood for Tommy, a captive chimpanzee

Currently, all nonhuman species are considered “things” unable to claim any legal rights. The Nonhuman Rights Project is trying to change that. In December, 2013 the organization filed a lawsuit with the New York State Supreme Court to seek legal personhood for Tommy, a captive chimpanzee kept in a shed behind a used car lot.  Of the six chimpanzees once kept by Tommy’s owners, he is the only one still alive.

The lawsuit asks the 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.” Granting Tommy and other animals legal personhood gives them the right to be free from captivity in parks, circuses, and laboratories. It gives them the right to be free  from medical research testing, mistreatment, and invasive practices like artificial insemination.

The Nonhuman Rights Project is a one-of-a-kind organization. Internationally recognized primate researcher and United Nations Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall is counted among their board members. Help the Nonhuman Rights Project fight for Tommy’s freedom, and that of other animals like him. Tell the New York Supreme Court to grant Tommy legal personhood.


Dear New York State Supreme Court,

On December 2, 2013 the Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit with your offices seeking legal personhood status for Tommy, a captive chimpanzee. While at first this may seem like an odd request, I urge you to look more deeply at the issue.

Chimpanzees share nearly 99% of their DNA with humans, yet are legally considered “things,” with no rights of their own. Without legal personhood status, animals like Tommy are subject to captivity, medical research experiments, and mistreatment. In his case specifically, this means life in a shed behind a used car lot, the only one of six chimps once owned by the business that is still alive. Nonhuman Rights Project has established a trust in Tommy’s name, and argue that on this basis he can be granted human legal rights to bodily liberty and bodily integrity.

Can you imagine a life in captivity as an intelligent, deeply feeling creature? Because of your rights as a human being, you will never need to know that despair. Help Tommy know the freedom you and I take for granted. Find in favor of Tommy’s legal personhood status.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rennett Stowe via Flickr

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