Take note PETA whackjobs... ASPCA to pay Ringling Bros $9.3 million
Posted 16 January 2013 - 07:36 AM
A legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade between one of the country's biggest animal welfare groups and a celebrated circus has been settled out of court.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has agreed to pay $9.3 million to the owners of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, according to court documents.
The litigation has spanned 12 years and stems from allegations of elephant abuse the ASPCA made against the circus.
The settlement was reached earlier this month; the society paid the money to Feld Entertainment, the owners of the circus, on Thursday.
"This case was never about elephants," said Steve Payne, spokesman for the Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment. "It was about their political agenda."
Feld Entertainment has deep ties to the Tampa area, which is the circus' winter home. The company also owns the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk County.
Kenneth Feld, the owner of the Feld Entertainment, said the settlement is a major victory against the animal rights activists who have been "attacking our family, our company and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses."
The settlement, Feld said, "is a vindication not just for the company but also for the dedicated men and women who spend their lives working and caring for all the animals with Ringling Bros. in the face of such targeted, malicious rhetoric."
Society officials said in a statement released Friday that "it is in the best interests of the organization to resolve this expensive, protracted litigation."
The organization declined to comment further.
Payne said the lawsuit has cost his company $20 million over the years. Feld Entertainment will proceed with lawsuits against the remaining six defendants in the federal case, which includes the Humane Society of the United States, he said.
The original lawsuit filed by the animal rights groups claimed the circus violated the elephants' protection under the Endangered Species Act. Trainers, the lawsuit said, used metal-tipped prods and chains on the elephants.
At the trial in 2009, Kenneth Feld testified the elephants were not hurt and that the instruments were necessary to keep the animals under control and to protect the public.
In January 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in favor of Ringling Bros. and found that a former Ringling employee, Tom Rider, did not have legal standing to sue the circus.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington upheld Sullivan's ruling, finding that Ryder was "essentially a paid plaintiff" because he received at least $190,000 from the animal rights activists pursuing the case.
The ASPCA said in a statement that it admitted no wrongdoing or liability in agreeing to pay the $9.3 million settlement.
"The court decided…on the issue of standing, and never ruled on the merits of the elephant abuse allegations," society officials said.
Payne said Feld Entertainment and the circus takes good care of its animals.
The Ringling Bros. circus will be in Tampa on Jan. 2-6, and the public will have opportunities to see elephants and other animals up close at what the circus calls its Animal Open House, he said.
"Come out and see for yourself," Payne said. "See how our animals are thriving."
Posted 16 January 2013 - 07:46 AM
Proud member of the Anti-Ballsma Club since 2010.
The thoughts expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of this board.
Posted 16 January 2013 - 12:08 PM
However, I am a little surprised by the ASPCA and Humane Society. They're typically more level-headed about such things and concentrate mostly on abuse and cruelty of domesticated animals. It's shame because now they have to dish out millions that would otherwise be used to help animals who truly need it.