March 16, 2021

Center for Animal Law Studies’ Professors Support the Case to Free Happy the Elephant

Happy, a female Asian elephant, is the first elephant in the world to demonstrate self-awareness via a mirror test. Yet, she has lived at the Bronx Zoo since 1977 in an enclosure too small to meet her needs. Since 2006, she’s also lived alone. For years, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), represented by attorney Steven Wise, also an Adjunct Professor at the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), has led a legal bid to seek Happy’s freedom from solitary confinement and to transfer her to a sanctuary.

Now, 50 animal law professors are the latest experts to support Happy’s case, including CALS’ Professors Pamela Frasch, Kathy Hessler, Russ Mead, Dr. Rajesh K. Reddy, and Joyce Tischler. Each of them signed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief urging New York’s high court to accept the NhRP’s recently filed appeal on behalf of Happy.

Happy’s case, the amicus curiae says, raises novel legal issues of public importance—specifically “whether our legal system should regard nonhuman animals as legal persons with legitimate claims to justice or, instead, as property that lacks enforceable legal rights.” These issues are “at the philosophical center of the growing field of animal law,” while “popular interest in animal law cases reveals a strong public engagement with the jurisprudential and philosophical questions raised by our legal relationships with animals.” Professor Matthew Liebman, Chair of the Justice for Animals Program at the University of San Francisco School of Law, drafted and coordinated the brief.

To learn more about Happy’s case, including a copy of the amicus curiae brief, visit this link.


The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law attorneys and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter, with the most comprehensive animal law curriculum offered anywhere. In addition, CALS is the only program that offers an advanced legal degree in animal law and three specialty Animal Law Clinics