Judge Rules for Circus in Suit Over Treatment of Elephants

The Washington Post
December 30, 2009
By Del Quentin Wilber, Staff Writer

A federal judge Wednesday sided with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in a legal fight in which animal rights activists accused the circus of abusing its Asian elephants.

In a 57-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said a former Ringling employee, Tom Rider, and the Animal Protection Institute did not have legal standing to sue the circus under the Endangered Species Act.

Rider and the institute argued during a lengthy bench trial and in court papers that Ringling Brothers had violated the Endangered Species Act because handlers used bull hooks on elephants and chained them for long periods. They contended that the hooks and chaining harmed the elephants.

If Sullivan had found a violation of the Endangered Species Act, Ringling Bros. would have had to stop the practices in question or obtain a permit from the Department of Interior exempting the circus from the law.

Sullivan heard from about 30 witnesses and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents during the trial in February and March.

Attorneys for Feld Entertainment, Ringling's parent company, had argued that the elephants were not abused and were loved by their trainers.


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