Posted May 04, 2007 08:59 pm CDT
In a case that could prove a persuasive precedent for other judges internationally, animal rights activists in Vienna are seeking a court ruling that a chimpanzee is legally a person. This would allow the chimp rights, such as having a legal guardian appointed, that are not available to nonpersons.
Those rights would not extend to the full rights available to humans, such as the right to vote, reports AP. But they would include important protections not offered under present anti-cruelty laws. The guardianship issue is important to the chimp in question, named Hiasl, because he is at risk of losing his longtime home at a now-bankrupt animal sanctuary.
“If we can get Hiasl declared a person, he would have the right to own property. Then, if people wanted to donate something to him, he’d have the right to receive it,” says Eberhart Theuer, a lawyer who is involved in the case on behalf of the Association Against Animal Factories, a Vienna animal rights group. He says he will take the issue, if necessary, to the European Court of Human Rights.
A petition to appoint a guardian for the chimp has been rejected by a local judge in Vienna and is now before a federal court in Austria.