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Campaigns, Cases

Join Us: Rally at the Bronx Zoo to #FreeHappy

By Courtney Fern

Please join the Nonhuman Rights Project on April 30th as we rally outside the Bronx Zoo in support of the right to liberty of our client Happy, a wild-born Asian elephant who has been imprisoned at the Bronx Zoo for 45 years, the last 16 of which she has been forced to spend alone. As an autonomous being, Happy deserves to live freely and with peace and dignity in a sanctuary.

We’ll also be kicking off the countdown to Happy’s historic May 18th hearing before the New York Court of Appeals–the highest court of an English-speaking jurisdiction to consider whether a nonhuman animal can have a legal right. 

WHAT: Rally to #FreeHappy

WHEN: Sat. April 30th, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET

WHERE: Outside the Bronx Zoo. Meet at the Asia gate entrance (Gate A). Driving directions and parking options can be found here, and public transportation directions can be found here.

WHY: Join the NhRP in calling for Happy’s freedom and kicking off the countdown to her historic hearing. 

During the rally Happy’s New York counsel and NhRP attorney Elizabeth Stein and NhRP Director of Government Relations and Campaigns Courtney Fern will talk about why this moment is so important for Happy and the fight for nonhuman rights and how advocates have played a critical role in the campaign to free Happy from the Bronx Zoo and end the practice of imprisoning elephants in zoos.

On May 18th, the New York Court of Appeals will hear arguments in Happy’s case, which The Atlantic has called “the most important animal-rights case of the 21st century.” This date is the culmination of a journey we began on her behalf in 2018.

Our litigation challenges elephants’ archaic, unjust legal status as “things” with no rights and seeks to #FreeHappy from the Bronx Zoo to a sanctuary where she can live freely with other elephants. In Defense of Animals has just named the Bronx Zoo one of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants for the tenth time.

We argue that the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, have unlawfully deprived Happy of her freedom, imprisoning her alone in an exhibit that is “too small to meet the needs of Happy or any elephant,” as elephant expert Dr. Joyce Poole has written in support of Happy’s release.

Right now it’s more important than ever that we show the Bronx Zoo and New York City leadership how many people support recognition of Happy’s right to liberty and want to see her released to a sanctuary where she can reclaim the freedom that was stolen from her nearly half a century ago. 

We’ll provide signs for attendees but feel free to bring your own. It may be warm, so dress in cool and comfortable clothing. We’ll provide water but please bring your own if possible to ensure you’re adequately hydrated. This will be a peaceful and respectful demonstration where we band together to advocate for the end of Happy’s imprisonment.

We’ll be following all local Covid-19 guidelines. 

Please RSVP on the Facebook event page or by email to

If you can’t attend, there are still important ways to help #FreeHappy!

  1. Send in a short video of yourself saying why you want to see Happy free OR a photo of you holding up a sign that says “#FreeHappy.” For more details and the submission form, click here.
  2. Share the rally Facebook event on your chosen social media to spread the message.
  3. Watch and share the livestream of the speehes happening at the rally on our Facebook page after 11am E.T.
  4. Sign and share widely this petition to free Happy to a sanctuary.
  5. See our blog on all the ways to help #FreeHappy now.

Lastly, please consider donating towards rally costs in lieu of attendance. We’re organizing this #FreeHappy rally to demonstrate to the judges hearing her case the widespread support for Happy’s right to liberty. Our legal arguments are based in the common law which is supposed to evolve in accordance with the social norms of the time. By supporting this rally for Happy, by physically being there, virtually tuning in, or financially supporting the rally costs involved, you are helping us show the judges at the New York Court of Appeals, along with judges and lawmakers all over the world, that it’s time for the law to finally catch up to what we all know is right.

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