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For nearly a decade, the self-professed “greatest show on earth” has had an elephant problem. It began in 2000, when a former elephant caretaker for Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey circus sued over the troupe’s alleged mistreatment of the animals. Tom Rider bore down on Ringling Bros. with the added muscle of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal-rights groups. Now, the company that produces the circus is flipping the script. In a suit filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the circus’s owner, Feld Entertainment Inc., alleges that the ASPCA and others conspired to bribe Rider to press on with the case. According to Feld’s lawyer, Michelle Pardo of Fulbright & Jaworski, the groups have thrown Rider about $100,000 in grants and other perks over the past seven years. Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal’s Katherine Meyer, who represents Rider and the ASPCA, says the groups have paid Rider a modest salary to run a national media campaign on the elephant issue. “He’s an incredibly effective spokesman,” says Meyer.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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