Free the Commerford Elephants: Send Beulah, Karen, and Minnie to Sanctuary

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UPDATE: Since the creation of this petition Beulah and Karen have died. Please read the updates at the end of the petition to learn what has happened and what is being done to free Minnie. Thank you for your support and for signing this petition.


Beulah, Karen, and Minnie are three wild-born elephants who have been held captive and exploited for over three decades by a traveling circus called the Commerford Zoo.

A little over a year ago, on November 13, 2017, the Nonhuman Rights Project began litigating in the courts for the recognition of Beulah, Karen, and Minnie’s fundamental right to bodily liberty, their release from the Commerford Zoo, and their transfer to the Performing Animal Welfare Society, a preeminent elephant sanctuary in United States that has agreed to provide the elephants with refuge and lifelong care at no cost to the Commerford Zoo.

Sign and share today to urge the Commerford Zoo to release Beulah, Karen, and Minnie to a sanctuary.

At the Commerford Zoo — a traveling circus cited by the USDA more than 50 times for violating minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act — Beulah, Karen, and Minnie are forced to perform at circuses and fairs where they are required to give rides despite Beulah’s painful foot disorder and Minnie’s aggression from years of psychological abuse that has resulted in her attacking handers and the public. Clearly, the Commerford Zoo values profits over the elephants’ well-being or human safety.

These highly intelligent, autonomous, self-aware beings deserve the opportunity to live the life that was stolen from them so long ago. Beulah, Karen, and Minnie should be immediately transferred to PAWS where they will be able to live freely for the first time in years.

Please urge the Commerford Zoo to voluntarily retire Beulah, Karen, and Minnie to PAWS now by signing this petition and sending a short, polite email to them at


Below is additional information on Beulah, Karen, and Minnie and the Commerford Zoo.

Beulah, is an Asian elephant who was born in the wild in Myanmar in 1967 and imported to the US sometime between 1969 and 1973. In 1973, she was sold to the Commerford Zoo in Goshen, CT (see below), which frequently uses her in circuses and fairs where she is power-washed (“complete with a gaggle of onlookers crowded around with lawn chairs, boxed lunches and soda”) and forced to give rides to children and adults, among other activities. The Commerford Zoo has also used her in commercials and theatrical performances, including a 1981 production of the Connecticut Opera’s Aida, which was  staged at a sports arena. Beulah has suffered for years from a foot disorder.

Karen is an African elephant who was born in the wild in 1981 in an unknown location. Imported to the US by Jurgen C. Schulz—who ran an import-export business for exotic animals and now owns the Kifaru Exotic Animal & Bird Auction—Karen was sold to animal trainer Richard “Army” Maguire in 1984. Later that year, MaGuire sold her to the Commerford Zoo, which also frequently uses her in circuses and fairs.

Minnie, is an Asian elephant who was born in the wild in Thailand and imported to the US in 1972 when she was two months old. Shortly after, Earl and Elizabeth Hammonds, in search of a baby elephant to incorporate into their traveling petting zoo, purchased her for $4,000 and transported her from Florida to their New Jersey home in a VW bus so she could become “the first elephant in the world to be raised as a member of a household,” as they write in their 1977 book Elephants in the Living Room, Bears in the Canoe. “To pay Mignon’s bills … Mrs. Hammond rents her for parties, sales promotions and Republican political gatherings. Averaging two bookings a week, Mignon just pays her way.” In 1976, the Hammonds sold Minnie to the Commerford Zoo, which frequently uses her in Indian weddings, film productions, photo shoots, circuses, and fairs.

Minnie has a history of attacking her handlers, injuring them and members of the public, including a 2006 incident in which, as PETA documented in a 2010 factsheet, “as children were being loaded onto the elephant, [Minnie] became agitated and suddenly swung her head toward the two employees, shifting her weight and pinning them against the loading ramp. An eyewitness reported that one of the employees had provoked the elephant by striking her in the face.” Despite this history, the Commerford Zoo still forces her to give rides, as indicated on the travel itinerary the Commerford Zoo submitted to the USDA in March 2017.

The Commerford Zoo

Founded in Goshen, CT in 1977, The Commerford Zoo owns elephants, camels, sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys, pygmy horses, ringtail lemurs, macaws, a kangaroo, a zebra, and an African Grey parrot, among other nonhuman animals.

The USDA has cited the Commerford Zoo over 50 times for failing to adhere to the minimum standards required by the Animal Welfare Act. Violations that pertain to the elephants alone include: failure to have an employee or attendant present during periods of public contact with the elephants; failure to give adequate veterinary care to treat an excessive accumulation of necrotic skin on the elephants’ heads; failure to maintain the elephant transport trailer; inadequate drainage in the elephant enclosure; failure to dispose of a large accumulation of soiled hay, bedding, and feces behind the elephant barn; and failure to keep an elephant under the control of a handler while she was giving rides. On at least three occasions, Minnie has attacked and critically injured her handlers, including while children were riding on her.

For the past decade, numerous area residents have tried to raise awareness of the poor conditions at the Commerford Zoo and sought to prevent it from coming to their communities, sharing their experiences online, proposing ordinances, setting up online petitions, writing letters to the editor, and participating in on-site protests. Yelp reviews describe the elephants as “sedated,” “sick,” and “sad,” the facilities as “filthy” and a “stockyard of despair,” and the experience itself “an abomination.” In some cases, local advocates have succeeded in persuading a venue to cancel a scheduled appearance by the Commerford Zoo, but neither public outcry nor the accumulation of USDA violations has resulted in any fundamental change in the animals’ situation.

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