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Lucy has been the focus of a long fight between animal rights groups and the City of Edmonton, which runs the Valley Zoo. ((CBC))

Animal rights groups are appealing an Alberta judge's dismissal of their legal challenge to have Lucy, the Asian elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, declared an animal in distress.

Clayton Ruby, the lawyer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Zoocheck and Voice for Animals, filed a notice of appeal Thursday morning.

In a written ruling on Aug. 20, Justice John Rooke, dismissed the groups' legal challenge, calling it an "abuse of process."

The groups asked the court to declare the 35-year-old elephant an animal in distress. But Rooke ruled the complaint must be filed with local peace officers, not in court.

In the last few years, Lucy has been the focus of a campaign by animal rights groups which want her moved to one of two elephant sanctuaries in the United States.

An originating notice filed by the groups earlier this year alleged Lucy had been suffering from a number of illnesses and had been under distress "caused or permitted by the City of Edmonton."  The city owns and operates the zoo.

City officials have denied all allegations of mistreatment and say Lucy gets excellent care from zoo staff.