New York Court Rules Bronx Zoo Elephant Named Happy Isn’t a Person, as Group Pursues Similar Case in California

Happy strolls inside the Bronx Zoo’s Asia habitat in 2018. She was born in the wild and brought to the U.S. in the 1970s. (Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press)

Happy the elephant may be intelligent and deserving of compassion, but she cannot be considered a person being illegally confined to the Bronx Zoo, New York’s top court ruled Tuesday.

The 5-2 decision by the state Court of Appeals comes in a closely watched case that tested the boundaries of applying human rights to animals.

The zoo and its supporters warned that a win for advocates at the Nonhuman Rights Project could open the door to more legal actions on behalf of animals, including pets, farm animals and other species in zoos.

The court’s majority echoed that point.

The decision written by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said that “while no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion,” a writ of habeas corpus is intended to protect the liberty of human beings and does not apply to a nonhuman animal like Happy.

The decision affirms a lower court decision and means Happy will not be released through a habeas corpus proceeding, which is a way for people to challenge illegal confinement. Granting that right to Happy to challenge her confinement at a zoo “would have an enormous destabilizing impact on modern society,” read the majority decision.

“Indeed, followed to its logical conclusion, such a determination would call into question the very premises underlying pet ownership, the use of service animals, and the enlistment of animals in other forms of work,” read the decision.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, by MICHAEL HILL | ASSOCIATED PRESS