In a desperate attempt to maintain the safety and security of an Austrian chimp, animal rights activists are fighting to get the animal declared a “person” to ensure that his needs are met. The 26-year-old chimpanzee named Matthew Hiasl Pan was denied the title of person by a lower court so the Association Against Animal Factories in Vienna are heading for the Supreme Court in order to win their case. 

The association is worried that the shelter caring for the chimp might close due to lack of funds, and by declaring Pan, as he is called, a person, it will ensure that he will be given the right to a guardian who can look out for him. This dispute began in Februrary when the animal shelter filed for bankruptcy protection. Pan and Rosi, another chimpanzee have lived in the shelter for 25 after they were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria to be used in pharmaceutical experiments. The shelter rescued the chimps from animal cruelty and have been taking care of them ever since.

The shelter costs 4,800 euros or about $6,800 a month to run. Donors are willing to help support the shelter, but Austrian law states that only a person can receive personal gifts. Pan’s life expectancy is about 60 years which makes caring for him a long term commitment. In April, a British woman petitioned to be declared Pan’s guardian, but this was rejected by a district court judge because the animal was neither mentally impaired or in danger.

In dismissing the shelter’s appeal this week, the court said that only a guardian could appeal, though this cannot apply since Pan was not permitted to have a guardian. The shelter says that declaring him a person is not the same as declaring him human. In declaring him a person, it recognizes that the animal has the right to be taken care of.  

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