Ringling Bros. Circus Heads to Court

"While the elephants are tethered at night, during mealtime and during bedtime, so they do not disturb one another; most of their waking hours are spent at play, socializing, exercising and learning new routines," Feld Enterntainment's Web site says.

The site also specifically says Ringling Bros. does not use bullhooks to get elephants to adhere to trainer's commands and, instead, uses a "guide" akin to a dog leash, a "USDA approved tool that can be used as an extenstion of the handler's arm."

"The device that they're talking about is a weapon," Silverman countered today. "Generally, it's a two- to three-foot club with a sharp hook on the end."

The Endangered Species Act makes it illegal to harm, kill or take endangered species out of their habitats. But today, Pardo told ABCNews.com that defendants believe there is no evidence that the Endangered Species Act should be used to ban elephants in the circus.

"The elephants are healthy and are well cared for by a full-time staff of veterinarians," Pardo said. According to Ringling Bros., the circus spends more than $60,000 a year to care for each of its elephants.

Pardo also disputed Rider's first-hand account, saying he is a paid plaintiff and adding that none of the 35 animal inspections conducted during his time with Ringling Bros. found any signs of mistreatment.

On Monday, Silverman responded that the former circus employee receives a "very modest amount of funding from the plaintiff organizations and others" to pay for gas and other travel expenses as he informs the public about Ringling Bros. alleged practices, adding that the funding "pales in comparison" to the amount Feld and Ringling Bros. spend on their own effort to disseminate their side of the story.

In 1995, Ringling Bros. opened its Center for Elephant Conservation, which its Web site describes as a 200-acre Florida facility for breeding and studying Asian elephants. The circus has also given several gifts in excess of a quarter million dollars in the last few years to the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo to study how elephants reproduce, and to learn more about viruses that threaten their health, according to the Web site.

According to the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) 2008 Red List, there are about 41,000 to 52,000 Asian elephants in the world, with more than half of them in the wild in India. The species population is decreasing due to shrinking habitat and poaching, and the species' population has declined by at least 50 percent during the last three generations, according to the IUCN.

ABC News' Tom Shine contributed to this report.

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