Chimps are not people, judge rules (again)

Last Updated Jun 8, 2017 8:23 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- Two chimpanzees have been denied the legal rights of people in New York. 

Nonhuman Rights Project attorney Steven Wise had argued to an appeals court in March that caged adult male chimps Tommy and Kiko should be granted a writ of habeas corpus. For people, habeas corpus relates to whether someone is being unlawfully detained and should see a judge. 

The chimps were caged in a trailer lot and at a primate sanctuary. Wise argued they should be moved to a large outdoor sanctuary in Florida instead of being caged.

The appeals court Thursday upheld a lower-court ruling. It says Wise's intention is praiseworthy and "laudable" but there's no precedent in New York law for considering a chimp as a legal person. 

Wise and the animal rights group have pursued similar cases before. Wise argued on behalf of two other chimps, Hercules and Leo, in an attempt to get them moved from Stony Brook University on Long Island to a sanctuary in Florida, but after two years of litigation he lost the case in 2016.

The rights project also pursued a case in upstate New York's Fulton County involving a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy. A state appeals court ruled against them in 2014.

Wise issued a statement to CBS News in response to Thursday's ruling. 

"For 2000 years all nonhuman animals have been legal things who lack the capacity for any legal rights," the statement read. "This is not going to change without a struggle. That fight has begun and we remain confident that Tommy's and Kiko's fundamental right to bodily liberty will be recognized as a matter of justice so that they too may experience the freedom they so desperately deserve. Public opinion has begun to tilt in our favor since we started filing these lawsuits, likely as a result of them."