ALBANY, N.Y. — She has four limbs, expressive eyes and likes to stroll through greenery in New York City. Happy, by species, is an Asian elephant. But can she also be considered a person?
That question was before New York’s highest court Wednesday in a closely watched case over whether a basic human right can be extended to an animal.
The advocates at the Nonhuman Rights Project say yes: Happy is an autonomous, cognitively complex elephant worthy of the right reserved in law for “a person.” The Bronx Zoo, where Happy resides, says no: Through an attorney, the zoo argues Happy is neither illegally imprisoned nor a person, but a well-cared-for elephant “respected as the magnificent creature she is.”
Happy has lived at the Bronx Zoo for 45 years. The state Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether she should be released through a habeas corpus proceeding, which is a way for people to challenge illegal confinement.