Misdirection: The HSUS was forced to pay millions of dollars in a federal racketeering lawsuit.
Truth: The HSUS was dragged into a lawsuit by a corporation that has paid record fines for violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The court was never going to reach the original claims of elephant abuse, and continuing to litigate would have been costly. The settlement by 12 parties allowed the animal welfare groups to focus on their mission of protecting animals rather than be tied up in court.
The original lawsuit against Feld Entertainment, the owners of the Ringling Bros. circus, centered on claims of animal abuse. The court dismissed the suit without reaching these claims because this court would never address the core claims of elephant abuse. The HSUS was never a party in this 14-year-old lawsuit. The Fund for Animals was a co-plaintiff with other animal welfare groups before becoming affiliated with The HSUS.
When the circus owners countersued the plaintiffs, they included several non-parties including The HSUS. The multi-party settlement in this case resolved the matter and specified no wrongdoing by any party.
We expect that a substantial portion, if not all, of the settlement costs to The HSUS and The Fund will be covered by insurance and that in the end, no donor dollars from The HSUS will go to Feld.
Following the settlement and after years of mistreatment, Ringling Bros. has announced that it will retire its performing elephants in 2018 and not long after that, announced they would be closing the circus entirely. Read more about this on our CEO’s blog.