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‘Happy’ The Elephant Should Be Legally Classified As A Person, Animal Rights Group Argues In Court

(Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

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The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) asked the New York State Appellate Division of the Supreme Court on Thursday to grant personhood to ‘Happy’ the elephant so that the lonesome animal could be transferred to a sanctuary.

The NhRP is working to get Happy, who is currently at the Bronx Zoo, released ahead of the cold winter in an effort to prevent her from being sent to the zoo’s “elephant barn,” which is a cement structure without windows and where Happy will be kept until the exhibit reopens in May, according to UPI.

NhRP argued that the 49-year old female Asian elephant has suffered years of injustice and solitary confinement at the zoo and should be released and relocated to a Tennessee elephant sanctuary, according to the group.

“Elephants need ample space to roam and make choices about where to go, what to do, and with whom,” the group said in a post. “Happy doesn’t have any of these opportunities at the Bronx Zoo, and she deserves to live the life that is only possible for her in a sanctuary.” (RELATED: France To Gradually Ban Traveling Circuses From Using Wild Animals)

The group is arguing that Happy should be granted Habeas Corpus, which Steven Wise, president of the NhRP, said would mean Happy is a legal “person” with basic rights including liberty and could then be sent to a sanctuary.

However, the judges didn’t appear convinced that they should be the ones granting personhood.

“Isn’t all this better suited for the legislature to act on?” Justice Jeffrey Oing asked. “I’m not so sure we’re equipped to handle these kinds of matters.”

The Bronx Zoo pushed back against allegations that Happy is not treated well in a statement in February when the Bronx County Supreme Court initially dismissed the case.

“The Bronx Zoo takes excellent care of Happy and will continue to do so, along with all animals here at the zoo,” the statement read. “Her well-being is assured by our dedicated staff and all the expertise they bring in providing excellent care for her for more than 40 years.”

Director of the zoo, Jim Breheny, told NhRP in a January email that Happy wouldn’t do well in a sanctuary because she doesn’t get along with the other elephant currently at the zoo. However, NhRP rejects the claim and argues Happy has gotten along with previous elephants in the zoo and that a sanctuary can reintegrate her with other elephants.