Albany, NY - June 14, 2022 – The New York Court of Appeals has ruled in WCS’s favor and dismissed the Nonhuman Rights Project’s petition to grant a writ of habeas corpus to Happy, an Asian elephant at the Bronx Zoo, who has been the subject of this lawsuit since 2018. This marks the fourth court to rule against NRP in this case.

In a 17-page majority decision released today, the Court of Appeals—the state’s highest court—agreed with WCS’s legal arguments and affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the petition. The justices concluded:

“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, and we therefore affirm.”

The majority decision further stated:

“To be sure, as our dissenting colleagues observe, the writ of habeas corpus is flexible and has long existed as a mechanism to secure recognition of the liberty interests of human beings—even those whose rights had not yet been properly acknowledged through established law. That flexibility, however, is not limitless and the extension of the writ would far exceed its bounds here, where petitioner seeks its application to a nonhuman animal. In that regard, the dissents are long on historical discourse but woefully short of any cogent legal analysis identifying any recognizable source of a proclaimed liberty right or so-called fundamental right to be free that they seek to bestow upon autonomous nonhuman animals. Instead, the dissenters conclude that the logical progression of our common law runs from extending habeas to “abused women and children and enslaved persons” (Wilson, J., dissenting op at 70, 16-36, see also Rivera, J. dissenting op at 5-9) to granting an elephant the right to bring a habeas proceeding, an odious comparison with concerning implications—as both dissenters acknowledge but one on which they nevertheless rely. We are unpersuaded.”

To read a statement from the Bronx Zoo issued on day of New York Court of Appeals hearing please go HERE.