Next month, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will likely announce its arrival in Washington, D.C., the way it does most years, with a parade of elephants trundling down Massachusetts Avenue toward the Verizon Center, where the self-declared “Greatest Show On Earth” will perform for five days. Depending on how things unfold in court starting this week, it could be the last time the elephants ever make that walk.

After more than eight grinding years of litigation, lawyers for Ringling Bros. will appear at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday to square off against a handful of animal welfare organizations, which have filed suit against the circus alleging that it routinely violates federal law by abusing its elephants.

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