Focus On

Hippopotamous? Whynotamous? | Marcel Strigberger

Friday, November 12, 2021 @ 2:28 PM | By Marcel Strigberger


Marcel Strigberger %>
Marcel Strigberger
In law there are now three types of persons: humans, companies and hippopotamuses. The latter is thanks to a U.S. Federal District Court in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruling. Curious? Read on.

Years ago former Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar illegally imported four hippos for his private zoo. They were known as the “Cocaine hippos.” Escobar’s estate was not too well attended to, and the hippos multiplied to over 80 and now they are allegedly wreaking havoc on the country’s local ecosystem.

The government wants to destroy the creatures but an animal rights group, Animal Legal Defense Fund, is fighting to save them, suggesting sterilization instead. Experts in this area of hippo control are in the United States.

Although Colombian law gives non-human creatures legal standing to bring lawsuits to protect their interests, that country’s legal system cannot compel someone in the United States to produce documents and testimony supporting their case. And without the help of these experts the rights of these hippos cannot be enforced.

However, U.S. law allows “interested persons” in a foreign country; i.e., Colombia, to go to a U.S. Federal Court to seek the ability to obtain documents and testimony. And so the animal rights group applied for the enforcement of the hippos’ rights, to compel two Ohio wildlife experts who study nonsurgical sterilization to provide testimony on behalf of the plaintiffs.

By granting the application, the District Court recognized these animals as legal persons, for the first time in U.S. history.

This I would say adds a new dimension to the status of the hippo. Had Noah known this he would likely have welcomed them to the ark differently:

“Ah, the hippos. We’ve been expecting you. Welcome. Your stateroom is on the Penthouse deck. You can double bunk with my son Japheth.”

I wonder why the drug lord needed hippos. I have heard of “mules” used to smuggle drugs. Were his hippos the new mules? Maybe. I never saw any at Pearson Airport. But I suppose they have some advantages over people. A customs officer is less likely to ask an arriving hippo if he has anything to declare. Or if he purchased anything duty free. And for sure the officer would not have to ask if the hippo was COVID fully vaccinated. In any event, to date I would imagine that the count for COVID-19 infected hippos is not too bad. Bottom line, no vaccs certificate necessary.

(However, I would still socially distance were I to see one at the luggage carousel.)

Of interest is that the experts have recommended not sterilization but contraception. I believe though well intentioned it could prove potentially challenging. I can’t imagine getting an alpha male hippo to go to a pharmacy and asking for condoms. Nor can I see any vet trying to force the dude to put one on.

And with hippos being recognized as persons, what animals are next? We recently have seen a zoom court case with the opposite result where a cat was recognized as a lawyer. Who would have guessed two years ago this was possible?

And speaking of funds, maybe soon our provincial legal aid plans will soon cover court applications by animals. It is not hard to imagine cases such as a pit bull suing a newspaper for defamation. Or a goldfish insisting his bowl is boring and demanding better housing.

Or a parrot claiming his owner does not understand him, making it necessary to constantly repeat himself.

It would be money well spent to allow access to justice for these persons.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

Interested in writing for us? To learn more about how you can add your voice to The Lawyer’s Daily, contact Analysis Editor Peter Carter at peter.carter@lexisnexis.ca or call 647-776-6740.