About the case
ASPCA, et al. v. Feld Entertainment, Inc. began more than eight years ago and is being pursued by four animal special interest groups and a former company employee against Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®.
The animal groups pursuing this case are the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Animal Welfare Institute, the Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute and Tom Rider, who is a former Ringling Bros.® employee. The complaint, filed by these special interest groups, alleges that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has violated the Endangered Species Act by harming the elephants through the use of guides and tethers. The animal groups wrongly claim this is an illegal “taking” of the elephants under the law.
The facts are that Ringling Bros. elephants are healthy and well cared for by a team of full time veterinarians. Ringling Bros. meets and often exceeds federal regulations on the care of circus animals, and our animal care practices are commonly accepted and well-known to the government. As a federally licensed traveling exhibitor, Ringling Bros. is inspected repeatedly by federal, state, and local authorities in virtually every city the circus performs. Ringling Bros. has never been found in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, the federal law that regulates the treatment of animals by circuses, zoos and other exhibitors.
Background of case
The original complaint was filed in July, 2000. The case was dismissed in 2001 but was reinstated in 2003 after an appeal. The appeals court ruled that if Tom Rider could prove that he was "aesthetically injured" by Ringling Bros. treatment of the elephants, the case could proceed. Whether such an "injury" to Rider actually exists and can be remedied will be a major issue in the trial as will the financial support that Rider receives from his co-plaintiffs - a fact that was unknown to the appeals court in 2003.
In an important ruling in August 2007, the U.S. District Court narrowed the scope of the case to only six Ringling Bros. elephants. The judge granted partial summary judgment to Ringling Bros. and ruled that none of the Ringling Bros. Asian elephants that were born in the United States were subject to the claims of the animal groups under the Endangered Species Act.