An animal rights group that filed a habeas corpus petition in October appealing for an Asian elephant named Happy to have the same rights as human beings could soon accomplish its goal.
The Nonhuman Rights Project argued that Happy, who has lived at the Bronx Zoo since 1977, has rights like any human and should be relocated to a large sanctuary where she can socialize with other elephants and roam more freely.
Earlier this month, the New York Supreme Court in Orleans ruled that the petition should be heard in Bronx County, since the elephant lives at the Bronx Zoo, according to a news release.
The group filed its court petition in Orleans County, 280 miles away from the zoo in western New York, because judges elsewhere in the state have taken a dim view in past legal proceedings of the idea that animals have legal rights like people.
Bronx Zoo elephant Happy arrived at the Bronx Zoo in New York in 1977, but has lived alone in an enclosure since 2006
Happy is seen strolling inside the zoo’s Asia display, Tuesday Oct. 2, 2018, in New York. An animal welfare group has brought a legal action against the Bronx Zoo on behalf of Happy
Above shows an Instagram post by the Nonhuman Rights Project. Nonhuman Rights Project Founder and President Steven Wise is pictured
Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny said in a statement seen in the news release: ‘The NRP has chosen to exploit Happy and capitalize on the Bronx Zoo name to advance its failed political agenda.
‘They continue to waste court resources to promote their radical philosophical view of ‘personhood.’
He added: ‘The NRP’s own filings do not question Happy’s care or our facilities, but seek to have her recognized as an autonomous being and transferred to an elephant sanctuary.
‘As we work through this process initiated by the NRP, we are forced to defend ourselves against a group that doesn’t know us or the animal in question, who has absolutely no legal standing, and is demanding to take control over the life and future of an elephant that we have known and cared for over 40 years.
‘We are pleased our motion for change of venue to Bronx County was granted, and we are confident that the courts will continue to do the right thing in this matter.’
Nonhuman Rights Project founder Steven Wise said: ‘Our world-class experts say that, like all elephants, Happy is an autonomous being who evolved to walk 20 or more miles a day as a member of a multi-generational large social group.
‘The entirety of the zoo’s elephant exhibit provides far less than even 1 percent of the space she would roam in a single day in the wild.’
Zoo officials say Happy appears to be content, is cared for by loving handlers and might suffer from a transfer to an unfamiliar facility.
Happy has lived at the Bronx Zoo since 1977 and has been alone since her companion died in 2006
For 25 years, Happy was paired with another elephant named Grumpy. But in 2002, Grumpy was fatally injured in a confrontation with two other Bronx zoo elephants, Maxine and Patty.
Happy was then paired with a new friend, Sammy, who died in 2006. After that, the Wildlife Conservation Society said it would no longer acquire new elephants.
Since then, Happy has been without a partner and kept apart from Maxine and Patty due to concerns they won’t get along.
Breheny said Happy doesn’t share the same holding pens as the other elephants but is in ‘tactile and auditory contact with them’ and spends several hours a day interacting with keepers, according to a statement posted on the zoo’s website in 2016.
‘Happy is healthy and comfortable in the home she has known for nearly four decades.
‘Our animal care professionals say she exhibits no signs of physiological or psychological stress with virtually no stereotypical behavior.
‘We don’t think moving Happy from familiar surroundings and the people to whom she is bonded is in her best interest,’ he wrote.
If Happy left the Bronx Zoo, there are several sanctuaries in the United States that accept elephants, including ones in Tennessee, Georgia and California.
Another Instagram post from the animal rights group is seen above. For more than a decade, Happy has lived alone, separated from the zoo’s two other elephants