Happy the Elephant is Not a Legal Person

Well it’s decided: an elephant is not a person. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

Happy the Elephant has always been a study in contradictions: a pack animal who’s lived alone ‘cause she doesn’t get along with others. Enormous in scale yet an agile runner. A New Yorker for the past 40 years, who’s described as low-key. And an elephant whose legal advocates called her a person. Those advocates had filed legal documents to give Happy the rights and privileges of legal personhood, with the legal right to bodily liberty whom they claimed should be sent to a sanctuary rather than confined to the Bronx Zoo. 

But last week New York’s highest court ruled that she is not a legal person. The court said that while no one disputes elephants are intelligent beings deserving of proper care and compassion, she doesn’t have the same legal rights as human beings. Animal advocates are devastated, but so far Happy has made no statement about whether she’s unhappy about the ruling.

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