Tarra and I have shared our lives for 36 years, resulting in a deep personal relationship. What began as a novice caretaker and displaced orphaned elephant soon evolved into much more. Our shared experiences have forged a deep bond, much like mother and child.
The Board’s decision to keep Tarra and me apart is counterproductive for Tarra’s emotional wellbeing. Their actions defile the spirit of the Sanctuary. If aware of the depth of emotion elephants possess, they would not attempt to sever any significant relationship. As stewards of the Sanctuary, their abuse would appear to border on criminal.
Yesterday, inside the Lewis County courthouse, my attorney argued for my right to see Tarra in order to monitor her wellbeing. The Board’s attorney argued against, stating that my request was only intended to satisfy my own emotional need. The Board’s attorney spoke of the Sanctuary’s ability to monitor Tarra’s physical health, but not her overall health. Currently the Sanctuary has no expert on staff to monitor Tarra’s overall health, the wellbeing of her mind, spirit and body. The lack of such expertise puts all Sanctuary elephants at risk and negatively affects their continued rehabilitation.
There was little the Judge could do to grant my request under the confines of the law, which views animals as property. If Tarra had been a Kubota Tractor I would have be granted permission to “inspect” her. But as a thinking, feeling, non-human animal, her needs, as far as the law is concerned, are irrelevant.
Tarra and I have once again found ourselves in uncharted territory, this time with no law designed to protect our relationship. It is not the first time we have found ourselves governed by a system that is not designed to address or protect Tarra’s wellbeing.
Tarra has no resemblance to a piece of property. It is insulting for the Board to suggest so. Her relationship needs are real. As stewards, the Board bears the responsibility to allow Tarra and her precious sisters to develop the relationships they desire — a principle the Sanctuary was founded on.
Although today the court was unable to provide protection for Tarra, I am confident that my continued effort will be successful. I founded the Sanctuary 17 years ago for the express purpose of protecting Tarra from a cruel and unjust world. I will not allow anyone to harm her no matter how long this effort takes. I will not allow this judgment to deter me from my goal to reunite us. The promise I made to Tarra 36 years ago still holds true; I will never abandon her.