Will Happy Finally Get Sanctuary?
Happy, the lonely elephant held in captivity at the Bronx Zoo for over a decade, is about to get her day in court – something that could result in her being sent to a sanctuary, and could also hold major implications for the legal consideration of elephants and other species across the United States.
A lawsuit, brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project, seeks to release Happy from what is essentially solitary confinement at the Zoo by attempting to secure her fundamental rights to bodily liberty. On November 16, 2018, the Hon. Tracey A. Bannister of the Orleans County Supreme Court of New York issued a habeas corpus order for Happy. This order was the first of its kind to be issued on behalf of an elephant, and only the second on behalf of a non-human animal (the first was issued on behalf of chimpanzees Hercules and Leo, in another Nonhuman Rights Project lawsuit).
The habeas corpus order means that Happy will get her day in court: lawyers from the Nonhuman Rights Project, acting as her representatives, will demand recognition of Happy’s legal personhood and present arguments that she is entitled to certain rights. The court will ultimately decide whether she ought to be immediately released from her imprisonment at the Bronx Zoo; in that case, she could be sent to a sanctuary where she can live out her life in relative peace among other elephants.
Should the court recognize the legal personhood of Happy and her rights to bodily liberty, a precedent would be established that could enable more effective legal advocacy in cases where better treatment and increased respect is sought for animals across the United States.
Happy’s court date is Dec. 14, 2018. Stay tuned for more updates on this important decision for animals.