Meanwhile, the NhRP’s first nonhuman animal rights case in California is already underway
ALBANY, N.Y., July 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Today the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a motion to reargue the 5-2 decision by New York’s highest court issued in June in a landmark case that seeks Happy the elephant’s right to liberty and release from the Bronx Zoo to an elephant sanctuary.
The New York Court of Appeals “misapprehended and overlooked crucial points of law and fact … resulting in an arbitrary and irrational decision—one that not only sanctions the daily injustice inflicted upon Happy at the Bronx Zoo, but has created instability and confusion in New York law with grave implications for illegally confined human beings,” the NhRP writes in its motion.
The NhRP repeatedly cites the two dissenting opinions, which harshly criticize the majority and have been lauded as a historic mark of progress in the global fight to secure fundamental legal rights for nonhuman animals. If the reargument motion is granted, the Court may order another hearing and will issue a decision explaining why it will either reverse or clarify its prior decision.
“No differently than if we had a human client, we feel it’s important to do all we can in pursuit of freedom for Happy,” said Monica Miller, the NhRP attorney who argued Happy’s case. “This includes challenging the wrongness of the majority decision, which, as the two dissenting judges understood, harms Happy as much as it undermines the values and principles of justice upon which our own human rights depend. That’s what this motion is about.”
In May, the Court of Appeals became the first state high court in the US and the highest court of any English-speaking jurisdiction to consider a case calling for a nonhuman being to be recognized as a legal person (i.e. a rights-holder). In a widely covered hearing, the NhRP argued for recognition of Happy’s fundamental right to liberty and release to a sanctuary where this right would be respected.
“As we file this motion we stress that, regardless of how the Court rules on it, the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages the zoo, don’t need a court order to do the right thing—which is to release Happy and the other elephant they keep in solitary confinement, Patty, to sanctuaries and close the elephant exhibit for good, as the Bronx Zoo once pledged to do,” said Elizabeth Stein, an NhRP attorney and Happy’s New York counsel.
With the Court not in session for the remaining summer months, the NhRP does not expect a decision on the motion until September at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the NhRP’s first case in California–on behalf of Amahle, Nowalzi, and Vusmusi
Earlier this week, the San Francisco Superior Court decided to transfer the case to the Fresno Superior Court on the same day Los Angeles Times columnist Nicholas Goldberg expressed sympathy and support for the launch of the NhRP’s fight for nonhuman rights work in the state, writing in an Op-Ed: “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.” On Wednesday, Dr. Keith Lindsay, one the world’s foremost experts on elephants, discussed the science behind demands for the Fresno elephants’ right to liberty in a webinar.
The NhRP sees both Happy’s case and the Fresno elephants’ case as examples of how “zoos mislead the public into thinking captivity in zoos is for the elephants’ own good,” said Miller, who is Amahle, Nowalzi, and Vusmusi’s California counsel. The NhRP is considering whether to appeal the transfer order.
CASE NO./NAME: THE NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC. on behalf of HAPPY, Petitioner, v. JAMES J. BREHENY, in his official capacity as Executive Vice President and General Director of Zoos and Aquariums of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Director of the Bronx Zoo, and WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY (Appellate Case No. 2020-02581)
CASE NO./NAME: NONHUMAN RIGHTS PROJECT, INC. on behalf of Amahle, Nowalzi, and Vusmusi, individuals, Petitioner, v. FRESNO CHAFFEE ZOO’S CORPORATION, AND JON FORREST DOHLIN, in his official capacity as Executive Officer and Zoo Director of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo (CASE NO: CPF-22-517751)
For a detailed timeline of Happy’s case, court filings, and decisions, visit this page. For a detailed timeline of Nowalzi, Amahle, and Vusmusi’s case, court filings, and decisions, visit this page. To download a photo of Happy, visit this page (credit: Gigi Glendinning).
The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in the United States working through litigation, legislation, and education to secure fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.
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SOURCE Nonhuman Rights Project
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