Civil Rights for Intelligent Animals . . . ?

Maybe so said attorney Steven Wise to a New York appellate court:

"A state appeals court will decide in coming weeks whether chimpanzees are entitled to "legal personhood" in a case that could lead to expanded rights for animals such as gorillas, elephants and dolphins, according to the lawyer advocating for a 26-year-old chimp named Tommy.

Attorney Steven Wise argued before a five-member mid-level appeals court Wednesday on behalf of Tommy, who lives alone in a cage in upstate Fulton County. A trial-level judge has refused a request by Wise and his Nonhuman Rights Project to have Tommy released to join other chimps at a Florida sanctuary that mimics their natural habitat.
Wise argues that animals with human qualities, such as chimps, deserve basic rights, including freedom from imprisonment. He's also seeking the release of three other chimps in New York and said he plans similar cases in other states. If he succeeds, he said he will seek personhood for other species with human qualities, which he defines as self-determination and autonomy." (link)

Perhaps intelligent animals should have some basic rights above those we give to far less intelligent animals like cows - actually probably so - but do intelligent animals already inherently have those rights absent a statute to that effect?

Not sure I'm convinced - but it's an intriguing non-frivolous question.