News and Document archive source
copyrighted material disclaimer at bottom of page

NewsMinenature-healthanimal-rights — Viewing Item

Circus elephant mistreatment { February 14 2003 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)

Friday, February 14, 2003
Court Allows Suit Against Circus for Handler’s Injury From Elephant Mistreatment


And you thought Dumbo had it bad. A former animal handler at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus claims other employees are beating endangered Asian elephants with sharp bull hooks, keeping the pachyderms in chains for long periods of time, and forcibly removing baby elephants from their mothers before they’re ready to be weaned.

Thomas Rider formed an emotional attachment to those elephants, and he quit his job, alleging the animals were mistreated. Rider then sued the circus under the citizen-suit provision of the Endangered Species Act. He would like to see the animals again, but he says their abuse would be too traumatic to witness. On Feb. 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Rider’s trauma constituted an ongoing injury and allowed his suit to go forward.

In granting Rider standing, the court compared the case to environmental law cases where courts ruled that harming a person’s ability to enjoy flora and fauna constituted an injury. This is the first time a plaintiff has made that argument under the Endangered Species Act.

"A person may derive great pleasure from visiting a certain river; the pleasure may be described as an emotional attachment stemming from the river’s pristine beauty," Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote for the court. "We can see no principled distinction between the injury that person suffers when discharges begin polluting the river and the injury Rider allegedly suffers from the mistreatment of elephants to which he became emotionally attached during his tenure at Ringling Bros.—both are part of the aesthetic injury." American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, No. 01-7166.

The opinion reverses a trial court ruling that Rider suffered no current or future injury due to the alleged abuse and therefore did not have standing to bring the case.

A spokeswoman for Feld Entertainment, which owns and produces the circus, says it’s important to remember the opinion deals with a procedural matter, not the actual merits. None of the allegations have been proven, she says, and the plaintiffs have a politically motivated agenda.

"Every day, we live and work with over 100 animals, and we are experts in their care," says Catherine Ort-Mabry. "Most of these organizations do not work with animals. This is a political agenda. They are trying to tell Americans what to eat, what to wear and how to spend their free time."

The opinion has some lawyers worried.

"I would call this another elephantine abuse of the Endangered Species Act," says James S. Burling, a staff lawyer with California’s Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit organization. He says that when Congress passed the law in 1973, this was not the sort of protection lawmakers had in mind.

"Anybody who is involved in the raising of animals—such as zoos—who has animals that are within the limits of the Endangered Species Act, faces some serious problems, because somebody is going to want to sue them," Burling says. "By having various people complain about the treatment and aesthetic injuries, then you’re going to have people making a cottage industry out of this kind of suit."

Elephants are extremely intelligent, and tend to bond with their caregivers, says Rider’s lawyer, Katherine Anne Meyer. She is preparing to litigate the case, and says it will be a bench trial.

"We think the evidence will show that Ringling Bros. engages in conduct, with respect to the elephants, that violates the Endangered Species Act," she says. The act prohibits harming endangered species and allows any person to file a civil suit to enjoin such harm, according to the opinion.

Steven M. Wise, an animal rights scholar, says this case resembles a 1998 D.C. Circuit case, filed under the Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits mistreatment to all animals. In Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Glickman, 154 F.3d 426, an en banc court found that people can suffer injury when they see animals being mistreated. The plaintiffs challenged how the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented Animal Welfare Act regulations, which cover the care, handling, treatment and transportation of all animals.

"I think it affirms that the Glickman case is not an aberration, and it continues the process of being able to establish that we humans who care about the abuse of animals can get standing," says Wise, an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School. "I was really delighted to see it. … It tells us that Glickman is not a fluke, and the D.C. circuit is going to be following it. In fact, it probably even expands Glickman."

©2003 ABA Journal

Activists spray kfc chief fake blood { June 24 2003 }
Agriculture officials investigate kosher meat plant { December 5 2004 }
Animal cruelty taped at KFC supplier { July 20 2004 }
Birds have complex language skills { February 1 2005 }
Circus elephant mistreatment { February 14 2003 }
Dolphins protect swimmers from sharks { November 23 2004 }
Fisherman bride regulators on dolphin tuna rules { April 28 2004 }
Grisly video at kosher slaugherhouse { November 30 2004 }
Hollywood animals { February 9 2001 }
Houston warden dragged alligator { April 29 2003 }
Hunters crush seal skull with clubs { April 5 2004 }
Lab monkeys scream with fear in tests { February 8 2005 }
Peta video shows chicken abuse at kfc supplier
Pilgrims pride probes poultry cruelty charges
Sharpton joins with animal rights groups boycott kfc { February 2 2005 }
Whales sonar { December 31 2001 }
Why vegans right { December 24 2002 }
Zoo drown { August 14 2002 }

Files Listed: 18


CIA FOIA Archive

National Security
Support one-state solution for Israel and Palestine Tea Party bumper stickers JFK for Dummies, The Assassination made simple