Born in the wild in Asia, Fanny was purchased from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1958 by the City of Pawtucket for $2,500. Fanny became a symbol of the city and spent more than three decades in Pawtucket at the Slater Park Zoo, now called Daggett Farm. While at the Slater Park Zoo, once named one of the worst zoos in America by the TV show 60 Minutes, Fanny was housed in a small barn, with only a tiny, barren enclosure in which to walk and was also chained by her back leg.
In 1993, the city council closed the zoo, but citizens clashed over Fanny's fate. Mayor Robert Metvier was accused of playing politics for trying to keep her there after the council voted to let her leave Pawtucket. A coalition of groups including the HSUS, the Free Fanny Coalition, and the Fund for Animals eventually won her freedom, and, during the night of June 7, 1993, she began her 36-hour journey to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas. While at the ranch, Fanny, renamed Tara, dropped 1,800 lb (820 kg) of unhealthy weight and was given something she had not had in decades—an elephant companion named Conga.
Fanny lived at the Black Beauty ranch until her death in August 2003. She was 59 years old, according to the ranch. Upon learning of her death, The Providence Journal ran an obituary for Fanny. In 2007, the City of Pawtucket dedicated a fiberglass sculpture to her, which stands within sight of Fanny's barn.
Her story is now being made into a film, Uproar in Pawtucket as part of the "Elephants in Rhode Island" series.
- "Pawtucket mayor drops effort to save city zoo". The Providence Journal. 1993-02-12.
- The Fund for Animals website
- "Fanny Begins Midnight Ride to Texas Home". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. 1993-06-08.
- Black Beauty Ranch website
- "Farewell to Fanny the elephant". The Providence Journal. 2003-08-20.
- Castellucci, John (2007-11-11). "Fanny's back – in fiberglass". The Providence Journal.