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Motion to Strike Filed in New York Elephant Rights Case

By Lauren Choplin

Motion to Strike Filed in New York Elephant Rights Case

~ NhRP: The Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bronx Zoo have improperly filed a Memorandum of Law that attempts to prematurely litigate some of the issues we raised in our habeas corpus petition on behalf of Happy ~

Oct. 11, 2018—New York, NY—The Nonhuman Rights Project is filing a Motion to Strike in its elephant rights case on behalf of Happy, a 47-year-old Asian elephant imprisoned at the Bronx Zoo. The NhRP filed this motion in response to the improper filing of a Memorandum of Law by the Wildlife Conservation Society (“WCS”), which operates the Bronx Zoo, that sought to prematurely litigate some of the issues the NhRP raised in its Verified Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus and Order to Show Cause and Memorandum of Law. The NhRP is asking the Court to strike the document from the record.

“Once the court issues the order to show cause we requested and orders a hearing, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Bronx Zoo will have every opportunity to attempt to justify their imprisonment of Happy, just as the New York State Attorney General and Stony Brook University had their chance after the court issued an order to show cause on behalf of our chimpanzee clients Hercules and Leo in 2015,” said Steven M. Wise, founder and president of the NhRP. “We look forward to that day.”

As the NhRP lays out in its Motion to Strike, the WCS’s Memorandum was neither authorized nor permitted by law; it was not served properly; and it was filed in such a way that it did not allow the NhRP any of the required time to contest the legality of its filing.

The NhRP argues in its Petition and Memorandum of Law, filed Oct. 2 in New York Supreme Court, Orleans County, that the Bronx Zoo’s “imprisonment of Happy deprives her of her ability to exercise her autonomy in meaningful ways, including the freedom to choose where to go, what to do, and with whom to be.” With support from world-renowned elephant experts, the NhRP is demanding recognition of Happy’s legal personhood and fundamental right to bodily liberty as well as her transfer to an elephant sanctuary. For the last twelve years, the Bronx Zoo has housed Happy in a rotating portion of its 1.15-acre exhibit, separated from elephants Patty and Maxine who, in 2002, fatally injured Happy’s longtime elephant companion Grumpy. Happy is the first elephant in the world to demonstrate self-awareness via the mirror self-recognition test.

Visit Happy’s client page for more information about her history, her court case, and links to all legal documents.

About the Nonhuman Rights Project
Founded in 1996 by attorney Steven M. Wise, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) works to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals through litigation, advocacy, and education. Our mission is to change the legal status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere “things,” which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to “persons,” who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty and those other legal rights to which evolving standards of morality, scientific discovery, and human experience entitle them. Our current plaintiffs are members of species who have been scientifically proven to be autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales. We are working with teams of attorneys on four continents to develop campaigns to achieve legal rights for nonhuman animals that are suited to the legal systems of these countries. We filed our first cases in December of 2013, and our work is the subject of the 2016 Pennebaker Hegedus/HBO documentary film Unlocking the Cage, which has been seen by millions around the world.

About NhRP President Steven M. Wise
Steven M. Wise began his mission to gain rights for nonhuman animals in 1985. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for four decades and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Professor Wise taught the first class in “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and has taught “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Stanford Law School, as well as the University of Miami, St. Thomas, and John Marshall Law Schools, and is currently teaching “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Lewis and Clark Law School and Vermont Law School. He is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for AnimalsDrawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal RightsThough the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. His TED TALK from the TED2015 Conference in Vancouver, Canada was released in May of 2015, and has over one million views.

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