International - POSTED: 2008/01/15 09:05
Austria's Supreme Court has dashed hopes by animal rights activists to have a chimpanzee declared a person, a statement suggested Tuesday.
The court recently rejected a petition to appoint a trustee for the chimp, named Matthew Hiasl Pan, the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories said, and subsequently vowed to contact the European Court of Human Rights over the matter.
The court's decision follows in the footsteps of a similar ruling last fall. In September, a provincial judge in the city of Wiener Neustadt dismissed the case, ruling the Association Against Animal Factories has no legal standing to argue on the chimp's behalf.
The legal back and forth began in February, when the animal shelter where Pan and another chimp, Rosi, have lived for 25 years filed for bankruptcy protection.
Activists want to ensure the apes don't wind up homeless. Both were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria for use in pharmaceutical experiments. Customs officers intercepted the shipment and turned the chimps over to the shelter.
Donors have offered to help with the upkeep costs, but under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal gifts.
Organizers could set up a foundation to collect cash for Pan, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years. But they argue only personhood will ensure he isn't sold to someone outside Austria, where he's protected by strict animal cruelty laws.