New York’s highest court will hear Happy the elephant’s case

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Freedom could still be on the horizon for Happy the elephant. 

The New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, agreed Tuesday to hear a case from a group fighting to spring Happy from the Bronx Zoo under a writ of habeas corpus — a legal concept used to determine if jailing a prisoner or detainee is lawful.

It will be the highest court in any English-speaking jurisdiction to hear such a case brought on behalf of someone who isn’t a human being, Happy’s attorneys from the Nonhuman Rights Project said in a news release. 

Attorneys for the group have argued that the Asian pachyderm — who’s lived at the Bronx Zoo for over 40 years, and has been alone there for more than a decade — is a complex and intelligent creature who has the same right as humans do to live free of captivity.

Advocates have wanted Happy freed from the Bronx Zoo for years.
Advocates have wanted Happy freed from the Bronx Zoo for years.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

Since 2018, the group has been trying to get Happy released from the zoo, but lower courts have repeatedly struck down the case, saying the law doesn’t apply to the elephant because she isn’t a human.   

“Happy’s case has been supported from the start by leading scientists, philosophers, habeas corpus scholars, legal experts, theologians, and the wider public throughout the country and the world,” NhRP said in a news release. 

“We are thrilled the Court of Appeals has recognized the urgent public importance of Happy’s case and hope she will soon become the first elephant and nonhuman animal in the US to have her right to bodily liberty judicially recognized.” 

The Bronx Zoo didn’t comment on the Court of Appeals’ decision and directed The Post to a statement it made in February. The zoo has repeatedly criticized the legal battle and accused the group of waging a frivolous war for the sake of publicity and fundraising. 

Happy came to the Bronx Zoo in 1977.
Happy came to the Bronx Zoo in 1977.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

“The Bronx Zoo takes excellent care of Happy and will continue to do so, along with all animals here at the zoo. Her well-being is assured by our dedicated staff and all the expertise they bring in providing excellent care for her for more than 40 years,” the February statement reads.

“NhRP has no real regard for Happy as an individual. Though NhRP is on record in court documents stating they are not questioning Happy’s welfare, they consistently raise concerns about her welfare as a fundraising tool.”

Happy the elephant portesters
Protesters have been outraged that Happy has been kept in what amounts to solitary confinement at the Bronx Zoo.
J.C. Rice for NY Post

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