The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) on Friday announced that Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. Circus, has reached a $9.3 million settlement with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in connection with a federal lawsuit filed by Feld under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.
Feld’s litigation will continue against other animal rights defendants, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and two of its attorneys, Jonathan Lovvorn and Kimberly Ockene, who could be liable for tens of millions of dollars due to criminal activity.
Feld’s lawsuit alleges that ASPCA, HSUS, Lovvorn, Ockene, and others took part in an illegal scheme to pursue fraudulent litigation against Feld that dragged through the court for years. Federal judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed this previous animal-rights lawsuit in late 2009 after finding that the key witness for the animal-rights plaintiffs was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible.”
In his dismissal, Sullivan exposed a system by which animal-rights plaintiffs funneled at least $190,000 to this witness. Feld alleges that the HSUS sent six payments earmarked to pay this witness through a nonprofit front group controlled by plaintiffs’ counsel. Evidence from court documents show some of the money was paid to the nonprofit group with an HSUS check signed by CEO Wayne Pacelle.
The $9.3 million settlement by the ASPCA indicates that HSUS and other defendants could face tens of millions in damages if they are found to have acted illegally, according to CCF. Feld has stated that it spent $20 million dollars defending against the failed animal-rights litigation, and the RICO Act allows for triple damages.
“While HSUS has spent this holiday season raising money with tear-jerking ads featuring pet rescues, the group really ought to be asking for money to pay their for their defense attorneys and shady dealings,” said CCF Executive Director Richard Berman.
According to public polling, 71 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that HSUS is a pet shelter umbrella group, and 68 percent wrongly think that HSUS spends most of its money on grants to pet shelters.
More information about the RICO lawsuit is available online.