More than $9 million.
That's how much ASPCA donor money will not go into supporting animal welfare causes in the future.
Instead that money - $9.3 million - will be deposited into the coffers of the operators of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus - the result of a settlement in a decade-long legal battle that started over the treatment of elephants.
Feld Entertainment Inc. in a statement said animal rights groups like the ASPCA have engaged in "manufactured litigation" against a family-run business in their attempt to outlaw circus elephants.
“Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses,” Kenneth Feld, chairman and chief executive officer of Feld Entertainment, said in a statement yesterday. “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.”
Legal proceedings continue against the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute and Born Free USA, which could result in damaging financial blows to those organizations as well.
The litigation stems from a complaint filed by the ASPCA, the other organizations and Tom Rider, a former elephant handler, alleging that the circus mistreated its elephants.
In 2009 a judge ruled in favor or Ringling, saying that the case was based on the untruthful testimony of a paid witness.
The court found Rider had received more than $190,000 over eight years from animal rights groups.
In 2007 the circus sued the ASPCA and other animal rights groups, claiming they violated federal racketeering laws by paying Rider to act as a plaintiff and witness in several cases alleging animal abuse.
“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,” ASPCA president Ed Sayres said in a statement. “We are glad to put this matter behind us.”
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA runs a large animal shelter and hospital in New York City and works across the nation advocating for humane legislation and rescuing animals from abusive situations and disasters.
Feld Entertainment did not say what it planned to do with the money.
Here's an idea: perhaps it could help support company's Center for Elephant Conservation that cares for retired circus elephants.