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Urgent Alert! Demand Stop to Abusive Traveling Zoo! Contact Convention Center!
by Voices for Animals of Western PA Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 at 6:26 PM (email address validated) 1-877-321-4VFA P.O. Box 2751, Pittsburgh PA 15230

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is hosting the Commerford Kid's Fun Fair & Traveling Zoo on November 21st and 22nd, an abusive traveling zoo with numerous AWA violations. Please call and email the Convention Center and demand it be canceled!

Urgent Alert! Demand...
commerfordzooadvert.jpg, image/jpeg, 491x1194

Extremely Abusive Traveling Zoo Coming to Pittsburgh !
Contact the David Lawrence Convention Center and Demand Its Cancellation!

***Please Forward Widely***

Voices for Animals received a multitude of emails and calls regarding tickets available around Pittsburgh advertising a traveling zoo event at David L. Lawrence Convention Center, called the Commerford Kid’s Fun Fair and Traveling Zoo, which is planned for November 21st and 22nd. We were shocked and outraged by the picture of the ticket below: this fair features over 125 animals including elephants, camels, ponies, emus, llamas, talking birds, kangaroos(!), a giant python, monkeys, and genetically deformed animals like a unicow!

his event is like a monstrous combination of both an animal circus and the worst roadside zoo: not only are there a number of caged exotic animals, but the elephants and camels are being forced to give rides, there is a "monkey farm", and a petting zoo where families are encouraged to "pet em & feed em". You can see for yourself on their website – - Kangaroos in sneakers advertised to “rent”, a live captive giraffe being led on a rope and used to promote Toys R Us, and elephants being used in outrageous wedding ceremonies. Yet there is more: be sure to watch the video in which ponies, elephants (bullhook usage visible), and camels are exploited for rides and a chaotic petting zoo is shown where ducks are harassed behind cages. This all seemingly occurs in the same warehouse as noisy carnival rides and games, which surely must stress the animals even more.

As if this blatant exploitation wasn't bad enough, R. W. Commerford & Sons has been cited hundreds of times by the USDA for violating the minimal standards of the Animal Welfare Act. Their citations include failure to provide adequate veterinary care (or any veterinary care at all!), failure to maintain enclosures and transport trailers, failure to have an attendant present during periods of public contact, improper feeding, and poor housekeeping. Furthermore, one elephant, Minnie, has attempted to resist her abusers in three separate violent and dangerous incidents while giving rides to children and causing injuries. It appears that Minnie remains with Commerford Zoo to this day. Here is just a sample of their long history of Animal Welfare Act violations. A full list can be found here:

August 8, 2007: The USDA cited Commerford & Sons for failure to provide a developed and documented environmental enhancement plan for primates.

February 21, 2007: Bob Commerford testified before a Connecticut state legislative committee in opposition to proposed bill 6599, which sought to eliminate the mistreatment of captive elephants by banning the use of bullhooks, electric prods, and chains.

August 10, 2006: The USDA cited Commerford for failure to have an employee or attendant present during periods of public contact with the animals in the petting zoo, including an elephant named Karen.

March 5, 2006: An Asian elephant named Minnie injured two Commerford employees while giving rides at the Best Western Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts. As children were being loaded onto the elephant, she 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. One man sustained a chest injury and the other a broken arm. Both were taken by ambulance to the hospital. Two bystanders sustained bruises. Minnie has been involved in at least three previous dangerous incidents (see August 27, 1998, and August 28, 1989).

March 4, 2006: A 4-year-old girl fell through the railing of a loading ramp while waiting to get on an elephant and camel ride at the Best Western Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The girl fell approximately 5 feet and landed on her back among the animals. She suffered head trauma and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

November 30, 2005: The USDA cited Commerford for failure to provide adequate veterinary care to three elephants who were found to have an excessive accumulation of necrotic skin on their heads; failure to provide adequate shelter to goats, sheep, and llamas; and failure to maintain structurally sound enclosures. The inspector noted that the Asian elephant Beulah was being treated for a foot disorder. According to The Elephant’s Foot, captivity-induced foot problems and arthritis are the leading reasons for euthanasia of captive elephants.

August 15, 2005: The USDA cited Commerford for failure to handle animals so that there is minimal risk of harm to the animal and to the public. While giving rides, an African elephant named Karen used her trunk to reach out and touch members of the public, including a child in a stroller, while the handler was distracted talking to other employees and not observing the elephant’s behavior.

June 24, 1999: The USDA stated in a letter that Commerford’s giraffe travels lying down on his chest and abdomen in order to fit inside the transport trailer. According to expert guidelines, giraffe transport is very risky. The Capture and Care Manual states, “Do not transport giraffes with their necks bent for prolonged periods. … Once down, adult giraffes … regain their feet with difficulty. If the giraffe is on [his or her] side … or in a confined space, [the giraffe] may not be able to regain [his or her] feet at all. Animals on their side will die rapidly from bloat.” Restraint and Handling of Wild and Domestic Animals states, “Giraffes have died with the peracute mortality syndrome during and shortly after being moved to new locations.”

August 27, 1998: While carrying children on her back at the New York State Fair, an elephant named Minnie panicked and knocked down her trainer, then stepped on him. A 3-year-old girl was also injured after falling off the elephant and hitting her head on the ground. Both were treated at a local hospital. Minnie had been involved in at least two previous attacks (see August 28, 1989).

June 25, 1998: Commerford was cited for failure to have a program of veterinary care.

August 28, 1989: An elephant handler was attacked and critically injured by an elephant named Minnie after he struck the elephant with a bullhook while two children were riding on the elephant’s back. Minnie picked up the handler with her trunk and threw him against a trailer, breaking his shoulder and jaw, at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction, Vermont. According to a witness, “Blood was gushing everywhere. The kids were left stranded.” Commerford continued using Minnie for rides at the fair despite a public outcry that the elephant was too dangerous. Years earlier, Minnie had attacked a worker and broken his arm.

It is completely unacceptable that the Convention Center would even consider hosting this unscrupulous and appalling business. Let's try to get this event canceled before it even has a chance to taint Pittsburgh with its presence on November 21st and 22nd! Please call and email the David Lawrence Convention Center immediately and repeatedly and demand the cancellation of the Commerford Kid’s Fun Fair and Traveling Zoo!

Our email and follow up phone calls to DLCC resulted in their management giving us the run around, without volunteering to name the person responsible for booking this event. Therefore, when you call and leave your complaint with the secretary or another DLCC administrator, demand to know who is accountable for this extreme lapse in judgment and morals.

When calling the Convention Center, you can dial 0 and talk to the secretary or dial any of the extensions and talk to any of the administrators in the office. You can also leave a message on their voicemails. Please call often, everyday even, and demand that they cancel this event.

We are providing you with a pre-written email that you can send to the Convention Center. You can either copy and paste it straight into email or better yet, revise it in your own words and send. Or even better still, you can make up your own email!

Dear David Lawrence Convention Center,

I am extremely disappointed and outraged at your decision to host the Commerford Kid's Fun Fair and Traveling Zoo on November 21st and 22nd. This event is nothing more than a display of blatant animal abuse and exploitation. Many of the animals who are forced to travel around with this traveling zoo are sick and genetically deformed, and live in the most decrepit conditions in small cages and enclosures, which are gravely deficient of meeting their physical and psychological needs, and where they are deprived of everything that is natural to them. Furthermore, R.W. Commerford & Sons has been cited numerous times by the U.S.Department of Agriculture for violating the minimal standards of the Animal Welfare Act. These citations include failure to provide adequate veterinary care, failure to maintain enclosures and transport trailers, failure to have an attendant present during periods of public contact, improper feeding, and poor housekeeping. One elephant with Commerford & Sons, Minnie, has been involved in three separate violent and dangerous incidents while giving rides to children, causing injuries, and appears to still remain with Commerford & Sons to this day. This traveling zoo is morally repugnant and poses a major danger to public safety and I am furious that this event was even considered. I demand that this event be canceled immediately and urge you to never again agree to host any traveling zoo or event that uses captive animals.


Contact Info for Convention Center:

Phone: 412-565-6000

Fax: 412-565-6008

Email: (info at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Administrative Offices (Monday – Friday: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM, or leave a voicemail):

Events - 412-565-6000 ext. 1

Sales/Bookings - 412-565-6000 ext. 2

A contact page of their website for additional numbers is available at:

If you receive any responses to your calls or emails please let us know. We will keep you updated on any new developments regarding this issue.

With enough complaints and disturbance, DLCC will be forced to deal with this issue and be compelled to take action. This event does not belong in our city or any city! Let's try to ensure it never arrives in Pittsburgh!

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Commerford horrors Luna Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 at 5:16 PM
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