Today, in a major blow to animal rights and nonhuman animal “personhood” advocates, the New York Court of Appeals, in a 5-2 decision, rejected the effort by the NonHuman Rights Project (NhRP) to employ the common law writ of habeas corpus to free an Asian elephant named “Happy” from the Bronx Zoo. In re Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny, No. 52 (N.Y. June 14, 2022). The case caps a long line of baseless efforts by NhRP in New York to obtain habeas relief for animals.
Despite petitioner’s efforts to show that Happy is an autonomous animal, the Court ruled that the common law writ of habeas corpus is not available to animals:
[D]espite the awesome power of the writ of habeas corpus and its enduring use throughout the centuries, no court of this State—or any other—has ever held the writ applicable to a nonhuman animal. Nothing in our precedent or, in fact, that of any other state or federal court, provides support for the notion that the writ of habeas corpus is or should be applicable to nonhuman animals. The selective capacity for autonomy, intelligence, and emotion of a particular nonhuman animal species is not a determinative factor in whether the writ is available as such factors are not what makes a person detained qualified to seek the writ. Rather,