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All the Ways You Can Help #FreeMinnie Right Now

By Courtney Fern

[gview file=”https://www.nonhumanrights.org/content/uploads/Letter-from-animal-protection-organizations-regarding-the-Commerford-Zoo.pdf”]We want to thank everyone for your understanding and supportive responses to our statement yesterday regarding our ongoing efforts to secure Minnie‚Äôs release to an elephant sanctuary.

Not a day goes by that we are not working to secure Minnie’s freedom. Much of what we are doing behind the scenes cannot be made public to ensure that we are successful in our efforts. Know that this is going to be a long fight, and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure that Minnie reclaims the freedom that was stolen from her so long ago. We are grateful for the countless local advocates in Connecticut who are working on a grassroots level to help both Minnie and the other animals held captive and exploited by the Commerford Zoo. This is a collective effort we are a part of, and all of us can play a role in helping to free Minnie to a sanctuary.

Some of you had questions about what we have done in addition to litigation and how you can support those efforts. Here are just a few ways we have been advocating for Minnie’s freedom outside of the courtroom and how you can help.

Speaking with local officials in Goshen, CT, where the Commerford Zoo is located

On August 25, 2020, we spoke at a Town of Goshen Board of Selectmen meeting to express concern over Minnie’s welfare and ask the Board of Selectmen to request that local animal control conduct an emergency inspection of the Commerford Zoo and remove Minnie if necessary.

Shortly thereafter we circulated an action alert so that people concerned about Minnie could directly email the Board of Selectmen. If you would like to email them please complete this action alert. If you are a resident of Connecticut, we encourage you to give public comment at a Board of Selectmen meeting, currently being held virtually over Zoom.

Contacting local animal control

On July 29, 2020, we sent a letter to the Torrington Police Department‚Äôs Animal Control Division, which has oversight authority for the Commerford Zoo, and requested that they conduct an immediate inspection of the Commerford Zoo and remove Minnie if her needs were not being met. Writing that “our office takes your concerns very seriously however elephants are not our area of expertise,” Animal Control Officer Caitlin Nield informed us the Animal Control Division had forwarded our letter to the USDA.

Contacting the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

We have been in contact with the USDA for the past two years. Starting in the summer of 2019, after we brought attention to Beulah and Karen’s unknown whereabouts and welfare, we filed a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for any and all information regarding the elephants and the Commerford Zoo.

We received a series of responsive documents over several months. You can view them here.

Also, on July 29, 2020, we sent a letter to the USDA requesting an immediate inspection of the Commerford Zoo after it acknowledged it could no longer afford Minnie’s most basic needs such as food and veterinary care. To our knowledge the USDA has not taken any action in response to the serious allegations in our letter, and they have not conducted an on-site visit since October 17, 2019.

You can file an animal welfare complaint with the USDA using this form.

Contacting the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)

Similar to what we have been doing with the USDA, we have filed FOIA requests with DEEP, the state agency that oversees the keeping of elephants, as well as sent letters detailing urgent concerns regarding the Commerford Zoo’s treatment of Minnie. We have requested that they conduct an inspection of the Commerford Zoo property to ensure that Minnie’s needs are being met and to remove her if she is suffering or in danger.

You can complete this action alert to send an email to DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes requesting that the agency conduct an emergency inspection of Minnie.

Working with state legislators

We have been in communication with several state representatives and state senators regarding the Commerford Zoo’s exploitation and imprisonment of elephants and what can be done to help secure Minnie’s freedom to a sanctuary.

After learning of Beulah and Karen’s deaths we asked people to email the state representative and senator for the Commerford Zoo’s district requesting that they ask them to voluntarily send Minnie to one of the two elephant sanctuaries that have offered to provide Minnie with lifelong care at no cost to the zoo.

On October 22, 2019 we spoke at a press conference hosted by Connecticut State Representative David Michel and urged lawmakers to join us, Rep. Michel, Rep. Anne Hughes, and Connecticut residents in calling on the Commerford Zoo to release Minnie to an elephant sanctuary. You can read the statement I made at the press conference here.

During the last legislative session in Connecticut we supported legislation to ban the use of animals in traveling entertainment acts. You can read our support letter here.

Contacting Governor Ned Lamont

On September 27, 2019, a coalition of organizations led by the Nonhuman Rights Project sent a letter to Connecticut Government Ned Lamont, urging his office to take action to free Minnie from the Commerford Zoo. The¬†letter‚ÄĒwhose signatories included the PETA Foundation, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Humane Society of the United States‚ÄĒstressed the state and federal government‚Äôs failure to protect the Commerford elephants and the life-or-death urgency of Minnie‚Äôs situation: ‚ÄúBecause Minnie is now without the company of other elephants and remains in an environment radically unsuited to elephant well-being, the need for her release is more urgent than ever.‚ÄĚ

UPDATE 9/9/21: The same coalition of organizations sent another letter to Governor Lamont, urging him to take action to ensure Minnie’s safety and publicly call for her transfer to one of the two accredited elephant sanctuaries in the United States.

We also provided multiple ways for both Connecticut residents and non-residents to contact Governor Lamont. On this blog you can find links to an action alert to email Governor Lamont as well as ways to call his office and a sample message you can leave for him. Lastly, we provided ways to contact him on social media and sample language to use in posts.

Contacting federal elected officials

We worked with Senator Blumenthal’s office to obtain more information about the USDA’s oversight of the Commerford Zoo and how Beulah and Karen died. Here is a blog about what we learned with links to the documents provided by the USDA to Senator Blumenthal.

We have also reached out on social media to all of Connecticut’s federal elected officials.

Protesting the Commerford Zoo and other forms of direct action

On February 2, 2019, in Worcester, Massachusetts, close to 100 people joined us to rally for freedom of Beulah, Karen, and Minnie. In partnership with¬†Change.org, we joined forces outside the DCU Center (where the Commerford Zoo was holding a ‚Äúkids fun fair‚ÄĚ) to be a collective voice and presence for the Commerford elephants before heading into the venue to hand-deliver our¬†Change.org petition¬†urging them to¬†release Beulah, Karen, and Minnie to a sanctuary. You can watch a video of the rally here.

In addition to our rally, petition, and action alerts, we have also waged a public pressure campaign through social media and the press to raise awareness about Minnie’s plight and convince the Commerford Zoo to send Minnie to a sanctuary.

In the upcoming months we will have new actions you can take to help secure Minnie’s release to a sanctuary. In the meantime, one thing that you can do, in addition to completing the actions linked above, is to send a tweet to Cher asking that she help Minnie. Cher recently helped in freeing an elephant named Kaavan from a zoo in Pakistan to a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Thank you for your support!

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