The owners of the mock sanctuary are called to fire the surviving elephants after Dixie disappears
For immediate release:
February 24, 2021
David Pearl 202-483-7382
Fredericksburg, TX – PETA today sent out a letter to infamous former elephant exhibitors Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT) Gary and Kari Johnson, who currently own and operate The Preserve, an elephant entertainment center based in Fredericksburg, asking them questions about the disappearance and the alleged the death of an elephant named Dixie and insists that they send the remaining elephants under their care in respected reserves.
PETA notes that in a recent video recorded before her disappearance, Dixie looked emaciated and lame. For years, the Californian HTWT took her around the country and forced her to perform stunts and ride under threat of punishment with a hook, a tool with a sharp metal hook, reminiscent of a fireplace poker. It has been documented that the Johnsons used this weapon to hit and jerk Dixie and other elephants. When California banned the use of hooks, the Johnsons relocated their facility to Texas and renamed it a “wildlife sanctuary,” despite the elephants being used for cruel tricks and paid public meetings.
“Poor Dixie has been exploited by the Johnsons for years,” says Rachel Matthews, director of captivity enforcement at PETA. “Nothing can fix her suffering, but PETA is calling on this exhibitor to free the other elephants and give them a peaceful rest so that they can roam, gather food, play and finally just be elephants.”
PETA, whose motto is in part that “the animals are not ours to be used for entertainment” – opposes arrogance, which is a worldview focused on human superiority. For more information please visit PETA.org or subscribe to the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram…
What follows is PETA’s letter to the Johnsons.
February 24, 2021
Gary and Kari Johnson
Dear Mr and Mrs Johnson,
I am writing on behalf of PETA about the disappearance of the Dixie elephant and urge you to immediately send the four remaining elephants in the reserve to an accredited reserve. In recent weeks, mentions of Dixie have disappeared from your websites, and she has not been used for public interaction. While you have not made any statements, many fear she might die, especially given her exhaustion in recent months.
If true, Dixie’s death follows a long life in slavery. Like most other elephants used for travel, Dixie was kidnapped from his mother and from a wild home as a child. As Have Trunk Will Travel, you make a living by taking her to fairs and other events, making her ride and perform humiliating circus stunts for the public. Nothing could be further from the environment an elephant needs: lush forests, cool streams, and a warm family to explore with.
Even after you moved to Texas and renamed The Preserve, Dixie received a little respite from constant human intervention. Threatened with bull punishment – something Dixie and the other elephants you trained knew all too well – she was used for public interactions and tricks such as bathing, painting, and head-standing. In recent photographs and videos, Dixie appeared emaciated and lame, a testament to the victims of a grueling life in performance.
While it may be too late to provide Dixie with the pension she so desperately needed, there is still time for the remaining elephants in the reserve. Elephants need to roam, forage, socialize and play, and they need the freedom to do so on their own terms. An accredited sanctuary can give them this freedom, along with expert care for aging elephants.
With proper care and a freer existence, Ty, Kitty, Rosie, and Becky could live decades longer, and they deserve to spend those years in a real retirement, free from performance and forced human interaction. These elephants gave everything they have to your family – isn’t it time to give them something in return? Looking forward to your reply.
Rachel Matthews, Esq.
Director | Law enforcement agencies for keeping animals in captivity