Today, Justice Alison Y. Tuitt of the Bronx Supreme Court today issued a decision in the Nonhuman Rights Project’s New York elephant rights case that is powerfully supportive of our legal arguments to free Happy from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary.
While Justice Tuitt “regretfully” denied the habeas corpus relief the NhRP had demanded because she felt bound by prior appellate court decisions in the NhRP’s chimpanzee rights cases, she essentially vindicated the legal arguments and factual claims about the nature of nonhuman animals such as Happy that the NhRP has been making during the first six years of our rights litigation.
Deeply encouraged by Justice Tuitt’s embrace of the merits of the NhRP’s case following 13 hours of oral argument over three days, we already begun working on our appeal.
In her analysis and conclusion, Justice Tuitt agreed with New York Court of Appeals Justice Eugene M. Fahey’s conclusion that an elephant, like a chimpanzee, is not merely a “thing.” Instead, Happy “is an intelligent, autonomous being who should be treated with respect and dignity, and who may be entitled to liberty.” Further, Justice Tuitt rejected the Bronx Zoo’s claim that its continued imprisonment of Happy is good for her, stating that “the arguments advanced by the NhRP are extremely persuasive for transferring Happy from her solitary, lonely one-acre exhibit at the Bronx Zoo” to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.
In late 2018, Happy—currently held alone in an industrial cement structure lined with windowless, barred cages (the zoo’s “elephant barn”) while the elephant exhibit is closed for the winter—became the first elephant in the world to win a habeas corpus hearing intended to determine the lawfulness of her imprisonment after the NhRP filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on Happy’s behalf. Such world-renowned elephant experts as Dr. Joyce Poole and Dr. Cynthia Moss supported Happy’s rights case while making clear that the Bronx Zoo cannot meet the needs of Happy or any elephant.
While we lament Happy’s continued imprisonment, we thank Justice Tuitt for breaking ground on the long road to securing liberty and justice for Happy and other autonomous nonhuman animals. Happy’s freedom matters as much to her as ours does to us, and we won’t stop fighting in and out of court until she has it. Thank you for being part of this fight.