WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The owners of an elephant at The Big E, that is the center of some controversy this week, is also in the middle of two active law suits in Connecticut.
An animal rights group has filed multiple law suits against R.W. Commerford and Sons, which owns Minnie, the elephant that has gone viral for alleged bad treatment.
A Facebook post went viral over the weekend. It showed a photo of Minnie the elephant taken over the weekend at The Big E and questioned the health of the animal.
However, Connecticut-based R.W. Commerford and Sons, which owns and handles Minnie, said she's not sick.
"Everybody says well, she's got this pink pigmentation and the skin and all this right here. If you wash an Asian elephant, you keep 'em really clean. That's their natural color. This is dead skin right here. That's going to fall off," said Tim Commerford with R.W. Commerford and Sons.
Gene Cassidy, president and CEO of Eastern States Exposition, said in a statement: "The USDA monitors the elephants on a regular basis. The elephants are in perfectly good health, well fed, well cared for and, importantly, loved."
However, people attending this year's Big E aren't the only ones concerned about Minnie and other elephants in Commerford's care.
A lawsuit was filed by the Nonhuman Rights Campaign in Connecticut.
According to court documents, the goal is for the elephants to have their own rights since "they are presently classified under the common law as right less things rather than the legal persons they should be for the purpose for securing their common law right to bodily liberty."
The lawsuit pertains to the three elephants in Commerford's care and asks that "upon a determination that Beulah, Minnie, and Karen are being unlawfully detained and denied their liberty, ordering their immediate release"
They hope they are sent to a elephant sanctuary.
Other animal rights groups locally agree. They think policy in Massachusetts needs to change too.
"I see change coming and the fact that is legal doesn't mean it's right. Slavery was legal in the 1800's and that speaks for itself," said Teri Stolpinski.
PETA also sent a statement to Western Mass News that reads:
"Today's compassionate public is rightly horrified to see a tired, suffering elephant reportedly limping on concrete as she's forced—under threat of violence and intimidation—to carry people on her back. PETA is calling on The Big E to get with the program, cut ties with a notorious exhibitor that has a rap sheet of animal-welfare violations, and join the many festivals and fairs nationwide that have turned their backs on elephant rides and other cruel and dangerous wild-animal exhibits."
Western Mass News has learned that multiple bills to ban this type of entertainment act have been introduced in Massachusetts.
One that is currently in committee is an act relative to the use of elephants in traveling animal acts, which would determine that no person shall allow for the participation of an elephant in a traveling animal act.
The bill is still in committee, and likely won't pass this session.
However, Rep. Angelo Puppolo told Western Mass News that he expects it to be refiled next session. He said that it gets more support every session.