Happy the elephant, a 51-year-old elephant at the Bronx Zoo, is not legally considered a person, according to a New York court ruling.
New York’s state Court of Appeals ruled 5-2 on Tuesday against an animal rights group that argued that Happy, who was born in the wild in Thailand and brought to the United States in the early 1970s, was being illegally confined in the zoo and that she should be relocated to a sanctuary, according to The Associated Press.
The Nonhuman Rights Project argued that the court should recognize Happy as a “legal ‘person’” with the right to habeas corpus, which guards against illegal confinement or imprisonment.
The court, however, ruled against extending the principle of habeas corpus to emotionally complex, autonomous animals, per The New York Times.
“Because the writ of habeas corpus is intended to protect the liberty right of human beings to be free of unlawful confinement, it has no applicability to Happy, a nonhuman animal who is not a ‘person’ subjected to illegal detention,” the court wrote.
Despite losing the case, the Nonhuman Rights Project applauded the dissenting opinions from two judges, citing them as a “tremendous victory” in the struggle for animal rights.
“This is the first time the highest court of an English-speaking jurisdiction has heard a case demanding a legal right for a nonhuman animal. It will be far from the last,” the animal advocacy group said in a statement.