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Supportive LA Times Op-Ed and Fresno Court Case Update

By Lauren Choplin

Today the Los Angeles Times published an Op-Ed by columnist Nicholas Goldberg that reflects on our legal fight to #FreeHappy in New York and our legal fight to #FreeTheFresnoElephants in California. In it, he describes how his prior skepticism about nonhuman animal rights, arguments for “which raise profound moral and ethical questions about humans’ interaction with the natural world,” has shifted: 

I don’t claim to know the answers. But human “exceptionalism” is simply not a persuasive argument. Why do we believe that just because we can dominate the world around us and mistreat our fellow animals, we should?

For too long, we’ve salved our consciences with tepid animal welfare laws that allow us to feel magnanimous and benevolent — rather than acknowledging our moral obligations and recognizing that the other living creatures with whom we share the planet have rights too.

Goldberg interviewed Jake Davis, the NhRP attorney who’ll argue Nowalzi, Amahle, and Vusmusi’s case, and Monica Miller, the NhRP attorney who argued Happy’s case before New York’s highest court, prior to writing the column.

You can help ensure future coverage of our new California case in the LA Times by sending a Letter to the Editor, thanking the paper for publishing this column.

Also today, the San Francisco Superior Court decided to transfer Nowalzi, Amahle, and Vusmusi’s case to the Fresno Superior Court. While the zoo is in Fresno, we’d filed in San Francisco because, under California law, we have the right to file a habeas petition in any county (before we take on any new clients, we carefully consider all aspects of our their litigation, including where to file to best serve our clients’ interests).

Attorneys for the Fresno Chaffee Zoo argued the case should be transferred to Fresno on the grounds that the zoo is in Fresno and the Fresno County community “stands the most to lose from the [elephants’ habeas corpus] petition.” We opposed the transfer because, as we detailed in our motion, 1) a transfer can only be ordered for a substantial reason, and no substantial reason exists in this case and 2) the zoo’s argument “completely ignores that this is a habeas corpus proceeding. Whether the Fresno County community may want to see Amahle, Nolwazi, and Vusmusi kept at the zoo is no basis for transferring the Petition. When an individual is illegally imprisoned, it is irrelevant whether members of the community want to see that individual kept in prison.”

Currently we’re considering whether to appeal the order. Regardless, we aren’t deterred by a potential transfer (which also happened at an early stage in Happy’s case) and look forward to possibly arguing before the Fresno Superior Court should it order a habeas corpus hearing as we’re requesting. If they do not, we’ll appeal to the intermediate appellate court for Fresno County (the Fifth District Court of Appeal). As in Happy’s case, our goal is always to reach the highest court of the state in which our clients are being imprisoned provided they aren’t freed before then.

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.

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

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