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HSUS Charged in RICO Suit

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has stepped over the ethical grounds of fair play on many occasions in pursuit of their objectives. They are now in the fight of their lives against a company that decided to commit the resources necessary to fight back.

HSUS and several other animal rights groups, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, filed suit in 2000 against Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Using Tom Rider, a former Feld wild animal trainer, as the plaintiff, they funded a lawsuit that alleged that Feld Entertainment abused their elephants in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Feld decided to not only defend itself against what they felt was a self-serving lawsuit by the plaintiffs, but to attack the organization itself for what they felt were illegal and unethical tactics. In 2009 United States District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled against the HSUS (a ruling upheld on appeal to the Court of Appeals) and threw the whole case out of court. He did so stating that Tom Rider was a "paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible" after it was revealed that he had been paid approximately $190,000 for his testimony.

This ruling sets the stage for Feld Entertainment to finally have its day in court to seek justice for having to spend a decade defending itself against manufactured litigation. When parties abuse the judicial system and its process, as alleged here, there are remedies, including triple damages," said John Simpson, Fulbright and Jaworski, counsel for Feld Entertainment.

Feld Entertainment sued HSUS under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) alleging that it caused the company serious harm. They want their legal fees paid for (an incredible $20,000,000 so far) and damages. What Feld alleges is an elaborate scheme by the animal rights organizations that constitutes racketeering under federal law, obstruction of justice, malicious prosecution and other charges. Last month the judge cleared the way for these charges to proceed.

Here is some background to the case. The Fund for Animals (FFA) was one of the original plaintiffs. They had two lawyers (also defendants in the lawsuit) named Jonathan Lovvorn and Kimberly Ockene who were partners in a law firm that represented FFA. In 1995 FFA was essentially taken over by HSUS. Although the payments to Rider started with FFA, these payments continued after the merger. In fact, the two attorneys now work for HSUS.

It is alleged by Feld in their suit that racketeering occurred because they provided "misleading and/or false interrogatory answers in order to cover up the payments to Rider and defending a deposition in which the deponent gave false testimony about the Rider payments." As with any case of this size there are a number of other issues, but the court has ruled that these charges can go forward to trial.

HSUS is one of the groups that is behind the effort to ban sport hunting across the nation, and that has forced state wildlife agencies to waste countless millions of dollars on lawsuits. Now, it is facing a lawsuit that could bankrupt it, put it out of business, and send some of its top executives to prison.

Some of the animal rights organizations have made me furious over the last few years in regard to their attacks on those of us interested in hunting and fishing. I have been writing about outdoor topics now for almost fifty years and have had arguments with many folks who believed differently than me about a lot of subjects. But for the most part these people have been honest in their beliefs and although we disagreed about something in particular there has been mutual respect.

Somewhere in the last twenty or so years many animal rights groups have just lost their focus and have become organizations that are willing to stoop to any methods to accomplish their goals. They are now in the fight of their lives against a company that just decided to fight back.

For Massachusetts it was the trapping issue that finally did it for me. In an effort to stop hat practice, HSUS and others mounted a blistering campaign of television and radio as. It was and is their right to do so. However, they were using pictures in their ads that depicted traps that were illegal to use already in Massachusetts. They did this knowing these pictures would rile up the public. When I called their director at the time, he told me that these were the ads put out by the national headquarters and he could not stop them.

They used ads that were factually incorrect to advance their agenda. Finally they have met a company that will not back down. It remains to be seen how this will all play out, Needless to say, the folks that contribute to these organizations thinking that there money is going to shelter and save cats and dogs need to rethink their spending.

The local shelters do a great job and want your help. Many dogs and cats are turned over every day and they need your attention. If you want to adopt an animal, give them a call. If you want to donate to a worthy cause that helps animals, "think globally but act locally."


Visit the Humane Watch web site for further details.


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