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New York Court of Appeals denies motion for reargument in elephant rights case

By Lauren Choplin

Today the New York Court of Appeals denied the motion for reargument we filed in our elephant client Happy’s case. Below is a statement about the denial from NhRP attorney Elizabeth Stein, who is Happy’s New York counsel.

Justice is on the side of elephants’ freedom, which is why we filed this motion and took Happy’s case as far as it could possibly go. In so doing, we hoped to give the Court of Appeals one more opportunity to reconsider its grievously wrong decision, especially in light of the dissents by Judge Wilson and Judge Rivera that powerfully supported Happy’s right to liberty “not just because she is a wild animal who is not meant to be caged and displayed,” as Judge Wilson wrote, “but because the rights we confer on others define who we are as a society.”

Given that the Court hasn’t granted a motion for reargument since 2018, we’re not surprised the Court didn’t grant ours. However, we continue to be dismayed for Happy and for New Yorkers that the state’s highest court has maintained, among other misconceptions, that you have to be able to bear duties to have even a single legal right, which is simply not the case. We remain confident that the majority decision won’t stand the test of time, while the two dissents will help light the way to a more just future for members of other species.

For the foreseeable future, hope for freedom and sanctuary for Happy—and for Patty, the other elephant held alone in captivity in the Bronx Zoo–will reside first and foremost with the people of New York. Together, you have the power to convince the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society to do the right thing and close the elephant exhibit for good, some 226 years after the first elephant imported to the US for a lifetime of imprisonment landed on the shores of New York aboard the ship America.

We encourage you to keep up the fight beyond the courtroom by advocating to elected officials, submitting op-eds to your local papers, being vocal on social media, encouraging sponsors and donors to withdraw financial support from the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, joining the protests a group of dedicated local activists are now holding outside the Bronx Zoo, and more.

At the same time, we’ll continue to call on the powers that be in New York and beyond to recognize the right to liberty of autonomous nonhuman animals like Happy—a crucial first step toward ensuring members of other species are treated fairly under the law, for their sake and ours. As Judge Rivera wrote in her dissent: “[Happy’s] captivity is inherently unjust and inhumane. It is an affront to a civilized society, and every day she remains a captive—a spectacle for humans—we, too, are diminished.”

For a detailed timeline of Happy’s case, court filings, and decisions, visit this page. Find all the latest on the fight for Happy’s freedom and ways to take action on our #FreeHappy campaign page.

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