A group of scientists has warned that the hippos pose a major threat to the area’s biodiversity and could lead to deadly encounters with humans. They are advocating for some of the animals to be killed. A government agency has started sterilizing some of the hippos, but there is a debate on what are the safest methods.
In the suit, attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense Fund asked the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to give “interested persons” status to the hippos so that two wildlife experts in sterilization from Ohio could be deposed in the case.
Federal magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz in Cincinnati granted the request on Oct. 15. The animal rights group based near San Francisco said it believes it’s the first time animals have been declared legal persons in the U.S.
Their attorneys argued that because advocates for the hippos can bring lawsuits to protect their interests in Colombia that the hippos should be allowed to be considered “interested persons” under U.S. law.
They pointed to a federal statute that allows anyone who is an “interested person” in a foreign lawsuit to ask a federal court to permit them to take depositions in the U.S. in support of their case.
Christopher Berry, the lead attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, called it a narrow but profound ruling.