A landmark ruling in New York's top court determined Happy the elephant does not have human rights.
The 5-2 ruling shoots down lawsuits seeking to attain some level of human rights for animals would have drastically changed American society.
"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," Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote in her ruling Tuesday.
"While no one disputes that elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion, the courts below properly granted the motion to dismiss the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, and we therefore affirm."
Happy is an Asian elephant who has lived in the Bronx Zoo for more than 40 years. The Nonhuman Rights Project used the legal construct of habeas corpus to argue the elephant is an emotionally complex animal and deserved to be moved to an elephant sanctuary.
"She's a depressed, screwed-up elephant," Nonhuman Rights Project founder Steven Wise told The New York Times before the ruling was delivered by the New York State Court of Appeals.
Unlike many states, the top court in New York is the Court of Appeals, while the New York Supreme Court is a lower court.
The Bronx Zoo issued a statement to the Times that Happy is "well cared for by professionals with decades of experience and with whom she is strongly bonded."
The ruling is landmark, because legal experts argued that if a court found animals can have human rights, it would dramatically impact American law, testing, and research. It could perhaps even lead to animals obtaining voting rights.
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