March 1, 2001 -- Thanks to an out-of-court settlement, some retired elephants from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will have a new home in an animal sanctuary provided by one of the circus' harshest critics.
On Monday, Ringling Bros. and the Performing Animal Welfare Society announced they had settled a federal lawsuit in which PAWS officials accused the circus of stealing documents and spying on them to discredit the animal rights group.
In its 16-year history, PAWS, which is based in Galt, Calif., and provides homes for retired and abused performing creatures and wildlife, has frequently criticized Ringling Bros. for its alleged abuse of elephants and other animals.
Ringling Bros. agreed to donate a "number" of retired Asian elephants to PAWS over the next three years and provide financial assistance for their long-term care. Neither side would discuss other specific terms of the settlement of the lawsuit, filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in California.
Noted Adversaries, Common Ground
Ringling Bros. refused to comment on the allegations. In a statement, circus officials said the settlement was "an example of cooperation between two organizations that have differing philosophies but who share the same goal of providing continued care to performing animals when they retire."
PAWS founder Pat Derby said she was pleased and delighted.
"We were surprised [by the settlement]," Derby said. "Sometimes when you're in a conflict with someone for so long, you forget that no matter what, you always have some common ground, in this case the care of the elephants. We just care about the elephants."
Ringling Bros. owns more than 65 Asian elephants between the ages of 1 and 58 and says it has worked with the animals for more than 130 years. PAWS cares for more than 75 exotic animals, including four elephants, at its Galt facility and is building a 2,300-acre sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif., which is expected to open in 2002.
Derby says the facility will have Jacuzzis and "plenty of open space for the elephants to play in the mud and enjoy the rest of their days."