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Rally for Happy’s Freedom

By Lauren Choplin

Please join the Nonhuman Rights Project on June 1st as we rally in support of freedom for our elephant client Happy, a wild-born elephant held alone in captivity at the Bronx Zoo.

WHAT: Rally for Happy’s Freedom
WHEN: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
WHERE: 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 raising awareness about Happy’s plight and letting the Bronx Zoo know it’s time for it to close its elephant exhibit and send Happy to an elephant sanctuary.

During the rally, NhRP attorneys and other staff will give updates on our litigation on behalf of Happy and other efforts to obtain rights for autonomous nonhuman animals. We’ll provide signs for attendees but please feel free to bring your own. Please wear dark colors and remember that this is a peaceful and respectful demonstration. This is an event where we band together to advocate for the end of Happy’s imprisonment.

With the NhRP’s landmark elephant rights litigation on Happy’s behalf headed to Bronx County, home of the Bronx Zoo, we are calling for recognition of Happy’s right to liberty and her transfer to an elephant sanctuary.

As we have argued in court with the support of world-renowned elephant experts, elephants are autonomous beings who suffer deeply when deprived of their freedom and prevented from interacting with other elephants. Thirteen years after the Bronx Zoo and the entity that operates it, the Wildlife Conservation Society, acknowledged it would be “inhumane to sustain an exhibit with a single elephant,” Happy still spends every day alone. In the winter months, she lives in a cage in a holding facility.

Happy is the first elephant in the world to demonstrate self-awareness via the mirror self-recognition test. In December of 2018, two months after the NhRP filed a habeas corpus petition on her behalf, she became the first elephant in the world to have a habeas corpus hearing to determine the lawfulness of her imprisonment. Happy’s court case is ongoing, and we hope the Bronx County Supreme Court will promptly order a hearing to consider the injustice being visited on her as an imprisoned autonomous being.

In February, the Orleans County Supreme Court decided to transfer Happy’s case to Bronx County, which we continue to view as a serious legal error; we make clear in our court filings that, according to New York habeas corpus procedure, we had the right to file in any county in the state and that we filed suit in Orleans County because the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department of which that Court is a part had correctly rejected tying legal personhood to being human.

In April, the Fourth Judicial Department denied appellate review on the issue of venue in Happy’s case, meaning the transfer will move forward and the ball is now in the Bronx County Supreme Court.

As with all our clients, we are fully confident in the justice of our arguments and prepared to continue the fight for Happy’s right to liberty and her release to a sanctuary wherever it takes us.

Whether through litigation or mounting public pressure, the Bronx Zoo must do the right thing for Happy and release her to one of the two operational sanctuaries in the US: the Performing Animal Welfare Society or the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

See you on the 1st!

RSVP here or email Courtney Fern at

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