WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A Facebook post, featuring an elephant at the Big E, has gone viral.
The company that owns and cares for the elephants, R.W. Commerford, isn't only battling protestors, but is involved in two active lawsuits in Connecticut.
Steve Wise is with the Nonhuman Rights Project.
It filed the first lawsuit against Commerford last November.
Wise says it's been an ongoing battle, but says the goal is to ultimately get the elephants, currently under Commerford's care, to a sanctuary in California.
Minnie is the Asian elephant in the picture circulating on Facebook.
"Elephants aren't made to be sitting, walking around circles...people on them," Wise tells us. "They belong in a sanctuary."
Steven Wise is president of the Nonhuman Rights Project.
"[It] made me absolutely furious," Wise stated in regards to what he saw at the Big E. "I was shaking and so angry at how I saw animals being treated. From what I've seen, I say object subjection. These extraordinary beings..."
Nonhuman Rights Project filed their first lawsuit against Commerford in November of 2017.
"The judge failed to issue habeas corpus," says Wise. "Appealed filed in appellate court this in Connecticut. Second habeas corpus lawsuit filed in June."
What this means is they're arguing the elephants under Commerford's care, which are Minnie, Beulah, and Karen, are being illegally held against their will.
"Habeas corpus," stated Wise. "By which persons imprisoned illegally. A third party can say they are imprisoned against their will. In law, a person or entity for the capacity of legal rights, as opposed to a thing."
Tim Commerford owns R.W. Commerford.
Western Mass News spoke with him and we asked him if Minnie was in bad health.
"She is in great health," Commerford tells us. "Everybody says well, she's got this pink pigmentation on her skin and all this right here. If you wash an Asian elephant, you keep them really clean. That's their natural color."
Regardless of their health, he says the bottom line is that elephants are not meant to be confined.
They're meant to be out in the wild.
"They're like human beings who've been enslaved," said Wise. "Their life isn't any life to them."
There is an online petition going around that has been shared more than 20,000 times with claims that R.W. Commerford and Sons has been cited USDA on several occasions.
We looked up reports online, and the most recent report we found was dating back to May of 2017, saying that one of the elephant's cuticles was in need of attention.
The USDA investigated a number of complaints against Commerford over the last three years.
They indicate there were no violations.
To view the USDA's full report of R.W. Commerford and Sons, click or tap here.