Human rights for non-humans?

The orangutan named Sandra sits in her enclosure at Buenos Aires' Zoo in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Dec. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

By most accounts, Sandra had it pretty good. The 28-year-old grew up in one of Buenos Aires' wealthiest neighborhoods where she was waited on hand and foot, a star in her own right. But she was never comfortable with stares from the public and the flashes of cameras.

So last month, an Argentine court ruled that Sandra shouldn't have to put up with gawking onlookers any longer. But she won't be able to stay in Buenos Aires, either. Instead, Sandra will be sent to live in a Brazilian wildlife refuge run by the Great Ape Project.

That's because Sandra is a Sumatran orangutan.

The decision to grant her habeas corpus rights as a "non-human person" is the first ruling of its kind worldwide. Recently, a federal judge in New York declined to grant similar status to a privately owned chimpanzee.

The judge ruled that "shy" Sandra was especially harmed by her experience in captivity, citing visible distress visitors often caused her.

Argentina's Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights, which represented Sandra in court, also plans to fight for the release of other great apes from zoos around the country. The group asserts that apes should be granted basic rights since they are highly intelligent and share as much as 99 percent of their DNA with humans.

No cases are in the works yet, but the decision to free Sandra could inspire calls to release other kinds of animals held in captivity.

To be sure, animals deserve strong legal protections. But labeling them "non-human persons" is a stretch - even if plenty of people treat their pets that way already.

For Sandra, however, her new status means a chance at a more comfortable life far from crowds and the noisy city. Hopefully, she will be happier.

If not, she's got a good lawyer.