After investigating the conditions of the animals at The Big E on September 25th and September 29th and consulting with elephant experts on our findings, CWI filed a complaint against RW Commerford and Sons with the USDA for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
We found animals confined to a petting zoo who were unattended by Commerford staff. Children were witnessed roughly handling the animals, animals were climbing fences causing risk to animal and visitors, a donkey stuck his head through a cage and required the assistance of a visitor to bring him back within the confines of his pen, and animals being fed food from the ground.
Minnie the elephant, who became famous after a photograph of her take at The Big E went viral, was also on site during our investigation. We discovered a significant amount of swelling in the area of her left jaw, which could indicate an abscess or dental condition such as impaction or overgrowth, and requiring veterinary attention. Her chewing appeared abnormal; she did not close her mouth normally to grind the hay. This could be due to pain or due to some congenital malformation. Improper chewing can lead to digestive issues and colic, due to elephants’ low gastrointestinal absorption rate.
Also, Minnie’s gait is extremely concerning. Elephants normally walk by lifting one leg at a time; Minnie, however, walks by moving simultaneous diagonal pairs of legs at once. Experts consulted by CWI have raised the possibility that there is some spinal issue, injury or malformation, causing this extraordinary gait, likely at the base of the neck. The possibility of brain injury, traumatic or otherwise, was also raised by our consultants, as was the possibility that this abnormality has resulted from extreme limitation of movement due to prolonged chaining or confinement in an extremely small space that didn’t allow Minnie to take a full step.
CWI has requested that the USDA investigate further and take action, including ensuring that Minnie receives a complete veterinary examination in order to ascertain the cause of her jaw and gait issues.
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