An organization of lawyers defending animal rights has filed a petition in an Argentine court on behalf of Arturo the polar bear.
He's being "unlawfully deprived of his liberty" at Argentina's Mendoza Zoo, argues the Association of Professional Attorneys for the Rights of Animals.
The association said the "unprecedented action" was taken when Arturo's South American zoo announced last week the polar bear couldn't leave for a zoo in Winnipeg and would be left there to languish.
"They're not asking for freedom -- they're asking for good conditions and to transfer Arturo to Assiniboine Park," said Maria Fernanda Arentes, the Winnipegger who spread the word about Arturo's plight.
Last year, video of the arctic animal pacing back and forth in a substandard enclosure in a steamy South American zoo caused an uproar around the world. This past week, a group of lawyers came to his defence.
"What they are trying to do is changing the law by setting precedents," said Arentes.
"They're saying to the judge they think we don't have the right to keep this animal in this condition because animals have rights," said the Argentine expat. If their case is successful, "it will not be easy after this to openly exert abuse on animals like this."
Last year, the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre in Winnipeg offered to move Arturo here, causing a backlash from some in Mendoza who said "pirates" were coming to take their bear.
Last month, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy that runs the polar bear centre said it couldn't get a Canadian import permit for Arturo because the Mendoza Zoo officials didn't have the required medical records.
Last week, Winnipeg zoo representatives met with Arturo's keepers via Skype and offered to go to Argentina and advise them on how to better care for the bear. Mendoza Zoo officials were reportedly considering it.
Animal rights lawyers in Argentina are asking the court for Arturo's immediate transfer to the polar bear centre in Winnipeg or "some other place of similar characteristics in the world," a translation posted online said.
They've turned up the heat on Arturo's keepers but Arentes doesn't expect the wheels of justice will move quickly. It's summertime in Argentina right now and courts grind to a halt with so many people on vacation, she said.
Meanwhile, Arturo has to endure daytime highs of close to 40 C, she said.
"This summer is very hot."