Skip to content

Brief filed in CT elephant rights case

By Spencer Lo

Today we filed a five-page supplemental brief in our Connecticut elephant rights case on behalf of Minnie, who is now the sole surviving elephant held captive and exploited by the Commerford Zoo traveling circus. In late October, the Connecticut Appellate Court granted us permission to file this brief, in which we address the serious errors in that Court’s recent decision regarding the first habeas corpus petition we filed on behalf of the Commerford elephants (Petition I). The objective of this brief is to urge the Appellate Court not to repeat those errors when it rules on our appeal of Judge Dan Shaban’s dismissal of our second habeas corpus petition (Petition II). Our supplemental brief argues the Appellate Court should disregard its decision on Petition I as it is clearly wrong.

As we maintain:

  • Minnie is a legal person with the right to bodily liberty, regardless of whether she can bear duties and responsibilities.
  • Under Connecticut’s common law of habeas corpus, the NhRP has standing to sue on Minnie’s behalf to challenge the lawfulness of her imprisonment, regardless of whether she herself has standing or whether we can be said to have a relationship with her.
  • Minnie is entitled to a hearing on the merits of her case, and given the absence of any such hearing, the Appellate Court was wrong to rule on the merits (by determining that she isn’t and can’t be a legal person).
  • Courts have the responsibility under the common law—which must evolve as human understandings of injustice evolve—to consider and remedy the injustice of Minnie’s legal thinghood in accordance with Connecticut’s deeply rooted values and principles of justice. Simply put, it is unjust to imprison an autonomous being like Minnie, especially alone.

Especially given that the two other Commerford elephants, Beulah and Karen, have died this year after decades of being imprisoned and exploited, we hope the Appellate Court will recognize the urgency of Minnie’s situation, promptly schedule oral argument in her case, and render a just decision.

Connecticut residents and people all over the US and around the world are right to feel deep frustration and concern about how the Commerford Zoo has been able to treat elephants so unjustly for so long with no accountability. That the Commerford Zoo continues to imprison and exploit Minnie is why obtaining legal recognition of her right to bodily liberty is critical. The freedom of elephants shouldn’t depend on the mercy of their human “owners,” who have a vested interest in continuing to imprison and exploit them, or on the clearly lax enforcement of weak and insufficient animal welfare laws.

As we push forward in our litigation, we’ll also continue to urge the relevant state and federal authorities to investigate Beulah and Karen’s deaths and finally help Minnie, who will continue to suffer until she can regain her autonomy in a sanctuary.

Learn more, including why we filed two habeas corpus petitions, here. You can help by sharing Minnie’s story and completing the actions on her grassroots advocacy campaign page.

Sign up to receive the latest updates on our mission

Find out about opportunities to get involved, breaking news in our cases and campaigns, and more.