By MICHAEL HILL – Associated Press
ALBANY, NY (AP) — New York’s Supreme Court rejected an attempt to free Happy the elephant from the Bronx Zoo, ruling Tuesday in a closely watched case that she does not meet the definition of a “person” illegally confined is.
The state Circuit Court of Appeals’ 5-2 ruling upholds a previous court decision and means Happy will not be released through habeas corpus, which is a way for people to challenge the illegal detention.
The majority decision, authored by Chief Justice Janet DiFiore, said that “although no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion,” a trial injunction is intended to protect the liberty of humans, not non-humans who are animal-happy .
The zoo and its supporters warned that a victory for the Nonhuman Rights Project’s attorneys could open the door to further legal action on behalf of animals, including pets and other species in zoos.
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The majority of the court agreed on this point.
“A decision that Happy, an elephant, could invoke habeas corpus to challenge her placement at the Bronx Zoo — a placement that is both authorized and appears to be compliant with state and federal laws and regulations — would have a tremendously destabilizing effect.” Effect on modern society,” says the majority decision. “It is not the job of this court to make such a finding.”
The Bronx Zoo argued that Happy is neither unlawfully imprisoned nor a person, but a well-cared for elephant “respected for the magnificent creature that she is.”
Proponents of the Nonhuman Rights Project argued that Happy is an autonomous, cognitively complex elephant deserving of the right legally reserved for “one person.”
Two judges, Rowan Wilson and Jenny Rivera, wrote separate, strongly worded dissenting opinions, saying that the fact that Happy is an animal does not prevent her from having legal rights. Rivera wrote that Happy is being held in “an environment that is unnatural to her and that doesn’t allow her to live her life.”
“Their imprisonment is inherently unjust and inhuman. It’s an affront to a civilized society and every day it remains a prisoner – a spectacle for the people – we too are being weakened,” Rivera wrote.
The judgment of the New York Supreme Court cannot be appealed. The Nonhuman Rights Project has not prevailed in similar cases, including cases involving a New York State chimpanzee named Tommy.
Steven Wise, the group’s founder, said he was pleased that she was able to convince some of the judges. He noted that the group has a similar case underway in California and more are planned in other states and other countries.
“We will look closely at why we lost and we will try to ensure as much as possible that something like this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Happy was born in the wild in Asia in the early 1970s, captured and brought to the United States as a 1-year-old child. Happy arrived at the Bronx Zoo in 1977 with fellow elephant Grumpy, who was fatally injured in a confrontation with two other elephants in 2002.
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Bronx Zoo elephant named Happy is not a person court judgments | lifestyles
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