Feld and ASPCA settle 12-year legal battle

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Feld Entertainment has reached a settlement with The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in a 12-year legal battle started over accusations about the care of circus elephants.

Under the settlement, the ASPCA will pay $9.3 million to Feld Entertainment, the Vienna-based entertainment company that produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement. “This settlement 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.”

The settlement, in which the ASPCA admits no wrongdoing or liability, covers Feld’s claims against the ASPCA for attorneys’ fees and damages in the initial lawsuit filed by the ASCPA in 2000 and the resulting racketeering case brought by Feld Entertainment in 2007.

The cases stem from a lawsuit filed by the ASPCA and other animal rights groups in 2000, which claimed the company was mistreating elephants used in the circus shows. A 2009 court ruled in favor of Feld Entertainment, saying that the litigation was based on the untruthful testimony of Tom Rider, who had worked for the circus. The court said he had received at least $190,000 in payments from animal interest groups.

In response, Feld filed a racketeering case in 2007 against the groups for paying Rider to be a witness. Feld said that its legal proceedings against Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for
Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Protection Institute United with Born Free USA, and attorney Tom Rider will continue.

“The Court decided the underlying Endangered Species Act case filed by the ASPCA on the issue of standing and never ruled on the merits of the elephant abuse allegations,” ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres said in a statement. “In fact, this litigation has stopped being about the elephants a long time ago. After more than a decade of litigating with Feld Entertainment, the ASPCA concluded that it is in the best interests of the organization to resolve this expensive, protracted litigation.”

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