The elephants in this traveling zoo suffered for years before they died

According to Christopher Berry, agencies acting on behalf of states and counties often manage to protect elephants better than the Animal Welfare Act because the laws on animal cruelty are stronger at the local level than at the federal level. In 2017, the Lawrence County Animal Inspection in Alabama discovered an elephant named Nosy chained and standing in his own feces, with no food or water, during a show. The Great American Family, an Orlando-based circus, had obtained a USDA license years ago, though Nosy was suffering from a skin condition at the time that made her prone to painful infections and that she was repeatedly exposed to tuberculosis. After local officials intervened, the USDA eventually revoked the circus owner’s license, and Nosy ended up being transferred to an elephant reservation in Tennessee.


Christopher Berry explains that although the Animal Welfare Act requires veterinary follow-up, the law has only vague recommendations, and USDA inspectors often end up submitting to zoos and vets. When one of them breaks the law, “the financial consequences are minimal,” he says. It is only after several violations have been proven that the USDA is likely to issue a warning or impose a modest fine, usually between 1,500 and 12,500 euros.

” In general, [l’USDA] imposes very small fines after years of obvious violations of the Animal Welfare Act, ”he continues. A zoo may well think that it is more profitable to wait to receive a fine and pay it, “than to immediately pay for a veterinary follow-up, to finance the improvement of its infrastructure, and so on, so that the animal enjoys adequate monitoring. “

“Laws are only valid if they are applied correctly,” says Ben Williamson. A zoo that has received several warnings from the USDA should expect to have its license revoked, but the agency rarely goes that far, he reveals.

“We should not need a docu-series on Netflix to revoke the licenses for those who commit animal cruelty,” he adds, referring to the case of Jeff Lowe and Tim Stark, who only lost their license after the show highlighted animal welfare issues and pressure from animal advocates.

Ben Williamson supports the Animal Welfare Enforcement Improvement Act, which has just been introduced in Congress, will mandate unannounced inspections before licenses are renewed, and will not allow a license to be renewed if a zoo fails. gets notified more than once about non-compliance with the rules.

The circumstances in which the USDA is issuing its ruling on license cancellations are part of “a predominant process” and are therefore confidential, according to the agency’s spokesman. “In general, [l’organisme] looks at the seriousness of the violations that took place, how well zoologically have followed the rules, the size of the company and its bona fides in complying with the law. Andre Bell declined to comment on the USDA’s decision to revoke the Commerford Zoo permit or not.


Minnie, the zoo’s last living elephant, has “slung” alone since her last public appearance in July 2019, according to the NhRP’s Courtney Fern. The NhRP has got drone footage of the stables and outdoor enclosures at the zoo headquarters in Connecticut that make them say Minnie spends most of her time in a concrete box. In previous deposits, the zoo had even described a “land of more than two acres” where Minnie could enjoy her pension.

The reasons why she no longer appears in public are still unclear, but Courtney Fern says it may be because viewers are upset about the exploitation of elephants, especially after the deaths of Beulah and Karen. Minnie is also notorious for the injuries she inflicts on her coaches; according to a press release collected by PETA, she attacked employees on at least four occasions.

Minnie’s current state of health is also unclear. Last summer, the parents of its former owners, Earl and Elizabeth Hammond, launched a € 2 million GoFundMe crowdfunding on behalf of Commerford Zoo to fund its food and care. “COVID-19 has exhausted the farm that feeds her,” it says on the page, and Minnie “paid for it directly. The campaign has so far raised only 1,987 euros.

According to information from Andre Bell, the USDA can not confiscate Minnie simply because the zoo is in financial difficulty. The Kevisstration force given by [l’Animal Welfare Act] is restricted to animals in states of absolute suffering. At the moment, Minnie is not in pain, “he wrote.

Courtey Fern does not see things the same way. “The more the elements filter on his situation, the more obvious it is that we need to find a refuge for him,” she says. According to her, the NhRP has offered to arrange and pay for Minnie’s transfer to a sanctuary, but those offers remain unanswered.

“Minnie deserves to be liberated […] All her life, they exploited her for money, she regrets. If they really cared about her fate, as they say, they should transfer her to a sanctuary where she could live as freely as possible with other elephants for as long as she had to live. »

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