The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) is making a second attempt to remove three elephants from a Goshen, CT petting zoo. In their habeas corpus petition on behalf of the elephants, NhRP claims the animals are autonomous beings which deserve bodily freedom. NhRP seeks to remove the elephants from the zoo and relocate them to a California-based sanctuary.
A previous ruling by Litchfield Superior Court Judge James Bentivegna in December of 2017 stated NhRP’s first attempt at habeas corpus for the elephants was “wholly frivolous” and NhRP had no standing in the state of Connecticut. NhRP founder and attorney, Steven Wise, is pinning his hopes on a recent opinion from a New York Court of Appeals ruling from May. In the May ruling, the court refused to grant a pair of chimpanzees personhood however Judge Fahey wrote in a concurring opinion, “While it may be arguable that a chimpanzee is not a ‘person,’ there is no doubt that it is not merely a thing.”
The goal of NhRP is to find a court which is willing to assert that animals have the same legal protections as humans, which would likely open a Pandora’s Box of problems for the animal research community should the effort succeed. Wise and the NhRP have been largely unsuccessful thus far in their efforts. However, the research community should be cognizant of the fact that these legal attempts to grant animals personhood will continue, and will negatively impact, or halt, research if they are not defeated.