In recent years, a number of advancements have been made for animals within courtrooms and legislatures in various parts of the world. Each year, new precedents are being made, reflective of an evolving public attitude toward how animals in society should be treated. Still, one of the largest remaining legal hurdles that often blocks the way of advocates helping animals in the U.S. is the doctrine of “standing.” According to this doctrine reserved for legal “persons,” a person must establish a protectable stake or interest that entitles him or her to bring the matter to court in the first place. Animals, who are property before the law in the U.S., are without the requisite legal standing to have their individual interests protected in court. In recent years, advocates have been able to overcome these hurdles through other limited means. With organizational standing, for example, nonprofit animal protection organizations may be able to file suit based upon the organization’s interest in protecting animals, where that interest is impacted. Yet standing often remains a major hurdle regardless of which legal route one opts to pursue.
Interestingly enough, however, “legal personhood” hasn’t entirely been restricted to human beings. Indeed, entities such corporations and ships have ironically gained the status of “legal personhood.” This fact begs the question of why sentient animals remain classified as “things” before the law. The Nonhuman Rights Project is hoping to change this reality with their lawsuit, as the writ of habeas corpus, which they are seeking for the chimps, can only be granted to “legal persons.” The nonprofit has also filed additional lawsuits on behalf of other chimps living in New York. While the outcome remains to be seen, one thing is certain—animals will now receive their day in court. The world will be watching to see what happens next.