I sometimes want to send blurbs about non-business cases.  This case of interest comes from the N.Y. Court of Appeals where the court dismissed a petition for writ of habeas corpus for Happy, the Thailand-born elephant. In Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. v. Breheny, No. 52, 2022 WL 2122141 (N.Y. June 14, 2022), the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) petitioned for the court to ascribe “personhood” status to the elephant so NhRP could move Happy to an elephant sanctuary, a more natural habitat.  The NhRP was founded by famed English primatologist and anthropologist, Jane Goodall.

The heart of the case concentrates on two thresholds – whether Happy is a “person” and whether she is being held at the Bronx Zoo unlawfully. The court decided the answers to such questions are “no” and “no.” Specifically, the Court held that “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.” Even Benjamin Franklin had offered a rule for how to tell the difference between people and animals: “Sheep will never make any insurrections.” There was no mention of elephants.  If the court had ruled otherwise, it would have opened the door to many other claims.

No information in this communication is intended to constitute specific legal advice.  For specific legal advice, please contact an attorney, and if you have any such questions or would like more information about this issue, please contact William “Pat” Huttenbach at 713.752.8616, or email at phuttenbach@craincaton.com.

William “Pat” Huttenbach | Shareholder | Banking Litigation
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Matter of Nonhuman Rights Project