Today we issued the following media release:
Nonhuman Rights Project Continues Legal Fight For Elephant Rights In Connecticut
January 17, 2018—Hartford, CT—Today the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) announced it has filed a motion to reargue with the Connecticut Superior Court, Litchfield County, asking the court to reverse its dismissal of the habeas corpus petition the NhRP filed in November on behalf of three elephants—Beulah, Minnie, and Karen—held in captivity for decades as part of a traveling circus based in Goshen, CT.
In this motion, filed late yesterday, the NhRP argues that the court made significant errors in its Dec. 26th, 2017 dismissal of the petition, the first suit in the world to ask a court to recognize elephants’ fundamental right to bodily liberty.
Foremost among the errors the NhRP brings to the court’s attention:
- As the NhRP set forth that it is seeking a good faith and principled extension of the common law that is well-supported by expert affidavits and general principles of law, by definition its case cannot be properly labeled a “frivolous” case simply because it is novel.
- The Court ignored long-standing Connecticut precedent in concluding that the NhRP does not meet the requirements for third-party standing in a common law habeas corpus action and relied upon a decision of the US Supreme Court that has not been adopted in Connecticut.
- Assuming that Supreme Court decision does apply, the Court erroneously concluded that the NhRP did not fulfill the requirement, specifically, by failing to allege that the elephants lack any “significant relationship” with another “person” who would be better placed to bring a case on their behalf.
The NhRP filed its habeas corpus petition on behalf of Beulah, Karen, and Minnie on Nov. 13, 2017 with the support of world-renowned elephant experts including Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss. The NhRP is asking the court to recognize their common law right to bodily liberty, order the elephants freed from their decades-long captivity, and order their transfer to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 natural habitat sanctuary, where they will be able to choose how to live their lives while living in a community of elephants.
Commenting on how the NhRP arrived at its next steps in the case, Wise said, “Connecticut law allows us the opportunity to ask the Court to reconsider its ruling based on the errors we are bringing to its attention. If the court does not agree we are asking it to allow us to amend our Petition to conform with that law. If the Court denies us on that ground as well, we will appeal. No matter what happens, this is just the beginning of our rights-based litigation on behalf of these and other elephants.”
The NhRP filed its first habeas petitions in New York on behalf of chimpanzees Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo in December 2013. Victories in these suits include the NhRP being granted standing to sue whenever the courts addressed standing (lack of standing is the most common reason courts dismiss cases filed on behalf of nonhuman animals) and securing the first-ever hearing to determine the lawfulness of a nonhuman animal’s detainment. In 2016, litigation modeled on the NhRP’s resulted in the recognition of a chimpanzee, Cecilia, as a legal person with rights in Argentina and her transfer to a sanctuary in Brazil.
For more information on the NhRP’s litigation and links to all legal documents, visit http://www.nonhumanrights.org/litigation.
CASE NO.: LLI-CV-17-5009822-S: NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC. on behalf of BEULAH, MINNIE, AND KAREN, Petitioner, v. R.W. COMMERFORD & SONS, INC. a/k/a COMMERFORD ZOO, and WILLIAM R. COMMERFORD, as President of R.W. COMMERFORD & SONS, INC., Respondents.
NhRP Communications Director