Friends of Animals joined CT state Rep. Dave Michel, other legislators and animal advocates yesterday at a press conference in Hartford in support of freeing Minnie the elephant from a traveling circus to an elephant sanctuary.

Photo credit: Gigi Glendinning

Currently, Asian elephant Minnie, a client of the Nonhuman Right’s Project in ongoing elephant rights litigation in Connecticut, is owned by the Goshen-based Commerford Zoo.

Two elephants have already died this year under the Commerfords’ so-called care. Asian elephant Minnie is now the sole surviving elephant being held captive following the death of African elephant Karen, 38, in March. Beulah, 52, an Asian elephant, died at the Big E, a weeks long New England state fair located in Massachusetts, last month, leaving Minnie, 47, without the psychologically necessary companionship of other elephants.

“Beulah passed away in front of the public at the Big E. I cannot imagine a lifetime of captivity and exploitation followed by a death with no privacy,” Michel said. “Karen passed away in circumstances as yet unknown. Minnie urgently needs respect and freedom in a place of peace and compassion. We are all sentient beings who should be treated with the same respect and dignity. We urge the Commerford Zoo to please send Minnie to a sanctuary.”

The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 sanctuary have offered to provide her with lifetime care at no cost to the Commerford Zoo.

USDA has cited the zoo more than 50 times for failing to maintain the minimum standards required by the Animal Welfare Act, according to ….

The Commerford Zoo, for decades, has transported Minnie to events across the Northeast where she is forced to perform tricks and give rides under threat of a bullhook, a device designed to inflict pain on elephants in order to subdue and control them. When Minnie isn’t laboring at these events, she is kept on the Commerford Zoo property in Goshen where she appears to spend most of her time in a small, dark barn with little access to the outdoors.

“If I were to control a dog or a cat with a miniature bullhook in public, I would expect I would be reported, arrested and charged with animal cruelty,” said State Rep. Michael Winkler. “Why do we tolerate it with an elephant? I don’t know.”

Here’s how you can help:

Urge Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont to help secure Minnie’s release to a sanctuary. Email constituent staffer Marc Bradley at

Ask Connecticut State Representative Maria Horn and Connecticut State Senator Craig Miner, who represent the town where Commerford is located, to publicly urge the Commerford Zoo to send Minnie to a sanctuary: Contact Miner’s legislative aide at: Contact Horn at