Today we filed our appeal in our habeas corpus case on behalf of Happy, a 49-year-old wild-born Asian elephant unlawfully imprisoned in a Bronx Zoo exhibit.
The NhRP is asking the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department to recognize Happy’s common law right to bodily liberty, reverse the Bronx Supreme Court’s dismissal of Happy’s habeas petition, and remand the case with instructions to order Happy’s release to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
In Febr…uary of 2020, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Alison Y. Tuitt issued a decision in Happy’s case after over 13 hours of oral argument, writing that the Court “agrees [with the NhRP] that Happy is more than just a legal thing, or property. She is an intelligent, autonomous being who should be treated with respect and dignity, and who may be entitled to liberty … the arguments advanced by the NhRP are extremely persuasive for transferring Happy from her solitary, lonely one-acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo to an elephant sanctuary.”
However, Justice Tuitt dismissed Happy’s habeas petition because “regrettably … this Court is bound by the legal precedent set by the Appellate Division when it held that animals are not ‘persons’ entitled to rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus.”
In 2018, as favorably cited to by Justice Tuitt, New York Court of Appeals Justice Eugene M. Fahey issued a concurring opinion in which he urged his fellow judges to treat the question of nonhuman animals’ rightlessness as “a deep dilemma of ethics and policy that demands our attention … The issue whether a nonhuman animal has a fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus is profound and far-reaching. It speaks to our relationship with all the life around us. Ultimately, we will not be able to ignore it.” Justice Fahey also criticized the Appellate Division decisions in the NhRP’s chimpanzee rights cases, making clear they were wrongly decided on the grounds that the NhRP’s clients aren’t members of the human species and cannot bear legal duties.
NhRP Staff Attorney Elizabeth Stein: “The First Department has the opportunity to do the right thing by correcting these serious errors of law and giving Happy a chance to experience the freedom, peace, and dignity of a sanctuary where formerly imprisoned elephants, including those traumatized by solitary confinement in zoos and circuses, have been able to heal and thrive.”
Read the brief and learn more here: https://tinyurl.com/happy-appeal-july2020
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