By Missy Frederick on Washington.Bizjournals.com
On December 20, 2009, a federal court judge dismissed a case against the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Tuesday that alleged mistreatment of elephants by the performing group.
The dismissal comes after more than nine years of the case working its way through the courts. In the decision, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan that the former Ringling employee, Tom Rider, who had brought the suit along with the Animal Protection Institute, did not have legal standing to sue the circus under the Endangered Species Act. It also questioned Rider’s credibility, finding evidence that he received payments from animal rights groups.
The case centered around alleged cruel treatment of the show's Asian elephants, including chaining and the use of hooks. Attorneys for Vienna-based Feld Entertainment, which runs the circus, said the elephants were safe, well-treated and healthy.
“We are gratified with today’s decision because it is a victory for elephants over those whose radical agenda, if adopted, could lead to the extinction of the species,” Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said in a statement Tuesday.
In a joint statement, plantiff's attorney Katherine Meyer of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal said the decision focused on the lack of jurisdiction of those bringing the suits rather than the charges of abuse.
“Had the court addressed the merits of the case...the circus would have been required to stop its chaining and bull hook practices or obtain a special permit from the federal government to continue to engage in these practices,” the statement said. The plaintiffs are weighing their options regarding further proceedings, she said.
The trial in U.S. District Court of D.C. began Feb. 4, 2009 and lasted for six weeks.