The following letter was sent to Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, USDA, by PAWS Director Pat Derby, in reponse to his department's decision to send confiscated Asian elephant Queenie to the San Antonio Zoo in Texas.





April 18, 2010

The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and our thousands of supporters are indignant at the blatant refusal of USDA to accept our offer of permanent care for Queenie, the Asian elephant owned by Will Davenport, while negotiating a settlement agreement to send her to San Antonio Zoo.

Our offer, which was sent to you in September of 2009, described in detail the level of care and attention Queenie would receive at our 2,300-acre facility. It is insulting to us and our supporters that you have chosen a zoo that houses 3,500 animals on 56 acres of land, an area much smaller than our elephant habitat.

The San Antonio Zoo's elephant program, before the death of their African elephant, violated even American Zoo & Aquarium (AZA) standards, which are pathetically inadequate - housing a single African elephant with a single Asian elephant in a cramped, antiquated area that provided no physical or psychological stimulation to either elephant. To send an elephant that has been confiscated to this substandard facility is unconscionable.

Representatives from USDA were well aware that we were in contact with Davenport and were negotiating an agreement with him. The actions taken by USDA can only be construed as selective and discriminatory against our organization.

The Animal Welfare Act was enacted to protect captive wildlife, and the USDA is mandated to enforce the Act. Animal Welfare organizations assist the agency in monitoring abuse of animals and enforcement of anti-cruelty laws. The egregious disrespect by USDA for the millions of citizens who support these organizations and their mission to protect captive wildlife is indisputable proof that an investigation into the policies of this agency is warranted.

PAWS has cooperated in the rescue and transport of hundreds of animals seized by state and federal agencies over the past 25 years. We assisted USDA in the transport of Tina & Jewel, two circus elephants seized from Davenport last year, to the San Diego Zoo and supported the decision of USDA to send them there. We work collaboratively with many zoos and have accepted elephants retired from several AZA facilities.

We are not objecting to the agreement to send Queenie to a zoo, we are objecting to the decision by USDA to send Queenie to an inadequate facility when we have offered safe, permanent refuge for life in a huge habitat with elephant companions to an elephant who deserves a respectful and objective decision about how she spends it.

We urge you to heed the pleas of the thousands of individuals who care about captive elephants, and reverse this disastrous decision by USDA.


Pat Derby
The Performing Animal Welfare Society



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