South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Former Elephant Handler Has Standing to Sue Circus Under Endangered Species Act
Description Appeals court held that a former circus elephant handler, who claims to have witnessed acts of cruelty to circus elephants, has standing to sue the circus under the Endangered Species Act in an effort to obtain redress for the elephants.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words Endangered Species; Animal Cruelty; Citizen Suit; Standing
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and Thomas Rider, a former elephant handler for Ringling Brothers, sued Ringling Bros. and Barnun & Bailey Circus for violation of the endangered species act by mistreatment of elephants used in the circus. Rider contended that when he worked for Ringling, he witnessed various acts of cruelty to elephants. The district court dismissed the suit, holding that there was no standing to bring such suit. Plaintiffs appealed.

Reversed. The strongest case for standing under the citizen-suit provision is that presented by the former elephant handler. Rider demonstrated present or imminent injury, as required for standing to sue the circus under the citizen-suit provision of the Endangered Species Act. He contends that because he knows some of the elephants, he cannot visit the circus because he would suffer "aesthetic and emotional injury" from seeing the elephants in their current condition. This meets the qualification under the act of an injury-in-fact that is capable of judicial redress. The redress he seeks is an injunction to prevent further mistreatment of elephants and an order to forfeit possession of the elephants. His suit may proceed.

Citation American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals v. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, --- F.3d --- (2003 WL 222748, D.C. Cir., 2003)

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