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Hearing Scheduled for Earth Day in Connecticut Elephant Rights Case

By Kevin Schneider

Good news! The Appellate Court of Connecticut has scheduled a hearing on April 22nd—Earth Day—at 2 p.m. ET in Hartford regarding a lower court’s dismissal of our first habeas corpus petition on behalf of Beulah, Karen, and Minnie, three elephants held captive at a traveling circus based in Goshen. The NhRP’s oral argument will address the Connecticut Superior Court’s grounds for dismissal of our petition, which we see as serious and reversible errors of law.

At this stage, we aren’t asking the Appellate Court to weigh in on the ultimate issue in Beulah, Karen, and Minnie’s case—whether the elephants imprisoned by the Commerford Zoo are legal persons entitled to habeas corpus relief—but simply to allow us the opportunity to make our arguments in the lower court. This would take the form of the Appellate Court reversing the Superior Court’s erroneous decision and remanding with instructions for that Court to issue the writ of habeas corpus and proceed according to the Connecticut Practice Book, which outlines habeas corpus procedure.

NhRP President Steven M. Wise will argue for the NhRP. Members of the public are welcome to attend, and we’d love for you to join us in court if you can! For details, click here.

Read our analysis of the Superior Court’s errors of laws here. In November of 2018, experts in habeas corpus, philosophy, and legal ethics urged the Connecticut Appellate Court to allow Beulah, Karen, and Minnie’s case to proceed. Read their arguments here. This hearing concerns our first habeas corpus petition, filed in November of 2017; we filed a second petition in June of 2018. See this post for the latest update in the latter case.

Offer To Dismiss Our Lawsuits

Last month, Steve, in his capacity as the lead attorney on Beulah, Karen, and Minnie’s court cases, sent a letter to the president of the Commerford Zoo, offering to dismiss our lawsuits against him and his business if they agree to allow for the transfer of the three elephants to one of the two currently operational elephant sanctuaries in the US: PAWS or the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Once the NhRP takes on a nonhuman animal client, we treat her as we would a human being we were representing. That is to say, we place her individual interests above the institutional interests of the NhRP, which are to secure legal rights for nonhuman animals. That is why we always make this offer and why the priority is always to free our clients to sanctuaries—even if this means the fight for nonhuman rights continues another day. The Commerford Zoo has not responded.

For well over a decade, area residents have protested the Commerford Zoo’s exploitation of elephants and other animals. This weekend, our friends at Western Mass. Animal Rights Advocates are protesting the Commerford Zoo at the XL Center in Hartford (learn more on WMARA’s Facebook event page). Public pressure has only intensified since we first filed suit on behalf of Beulah, Karen, and Minnie in November of 2017. Since November of 2018, over 300,000 people have signed the NhRP’s petition calling for the elephants’ release to a sanctuary.

Just before we sent the letter, we had heard reports that the Commerford Zoo would no longer use Beulah, Karen, and Minnie in circuses and fairs. If true, we celebrate this news and are working to verify it. However, either way, the Commerford Zoo appears likely to still use them in private events, and their facility in Goshen will never be able to provide them with what they urgently need: ample space to roam and make choices about where to go and what to do, an environment resembling their natural habitats, an appropriate climate, and above all, freedom. Our legal fight will continue until the elephants are in a sanctuary where their right to liberty will be respected.


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