Protection of Asian Elephants
The Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs brought claims against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and its parent company for the mistreatment of Asian elephants, alleging that a number of the circus’ routine practices violate the Endangered Species Act, including the forceful use of bull hooks to train, control, and "discipline" elephants as well as the continuous chaining of elephants for most of the day and night.
On December 30, 2009, the Honorable Emmet Sullivan dismissed the case on grounds that plaintiffs lacked sufficient standing to pursue their claims. Since the Court found a lack of jurisdiction, it did not rule on the merits of the case, including the extensive evidence regarding the mistreatment of elephants, which was presented during the six-week trial. The Animal Welfare Institute and its co-plaintiffs have appealed the ruling. The appeal is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and is scheduled to be heard on September 12, 2011. Also currently pending are a RICO suit filed against the plaintiffs and others by the defendants as well as a petition for attorneys' fees and costs.