On 14th June 2022, the Court of Appeals in Albany, New York, dismissed the appeal which tried to overrule a previous Supreme Court Judgement that said that Happy, the elephant at Bronx Zoo, is not a legal person so she does not have the right to go to an elephant sanctuary.
Happy was born in the wild in Thailand, but she has been imprisoned in the Bronx Zoo for 45 years (the last 16 of which she has been in solitary confinement separated from any other elephant). The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), the only civil rights organization in the US dedicated solely to securing rights for nonhuman animals, took the case on behalf of Happy, but the Supreme Court dismissed the petition on the grounds that “animals are not ‘persons’ entitled to rights and protections afforded by the writ of habeas corpus” and, that habeas relief is not available where petitioners merely seek to obtain a transfer from one lawful confinement to another rather than an immediate release from detention.
NhRP appealed this decision, but in June the Court of Appeals in New York dismissed the appeal re-stating that habeas corpus only applies to humans. The chief judge of the case said, “The question before us on this appeal is whether petitioner Nonhuman Rights Project may seek habeas corpus relief on behalf of Happy, an elephant residing at the Bronx Zoo, in order to secure her transfer to an elephant sanctuary. Because the writ of habeas corpus is intended to protect the liberty right of human beings to be free of unlawful confinement, it has no applicability to Happy, a nonhuman animal who is not a ‘person’ subjected to illegal detention. Thus, while no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion, the courts below properly granted the motion to dismiss the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.”. However, the decision was not unanimous and two judges, Judge Wilson and Judge Rivera, dissented.