Humane Society of the United States faces millions in potential damages for alleged role in fraudulent scheme

ASPCA to Pay Nearly $10 Million to Feld Entertainment in Racketeering Lawsuit Settlement

The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom calls attention to the breaking news that Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. Circus, has reached a $9.3 million settlement with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in connection with a federal lawsuit filed by Feld under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. Feld’s litigation will continue against other animal rights defendants, including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and two of its attorneys, Jonathan R. Lovvorn and Kimberly D. Ockene, who could be liable for tens of millions of dollars due to criminal activity.

Feld’s lawsuit alleges that ASPCA, HSUS, Lovvorn, Ockene, and others took part in an illegal scheme to pursue fraudulent litigation against Feld that dragged through the court for years. Federal judge Emmet G. Sullivan dismissed this previous animal-rights lawsuit in late 2009 after finding that the key witness for the animal-rights plaintiffs was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible.” In his dismissal, Sullivan exposed a system by which animal-rights plaintiffs funneled at least $190,000 to this witness. Feld alleges that the Humane Society of the United States sent six payments earmarked to pay this witness through a nonprofit front group controlled by plaintiffs’ counsel. Evidence from court documents show some of the money was paid to the nonprofit group with an HSUS check signed by CEO Wayne Pacelle.

The massive $9.3 million settlement by the ASPCA indicates that HSUS and other defendants could face tens of millions in damages if they are found to have acted illegally. Feld has stated that it spent $20 million dollars defending against the failed animal-rights litigation, and the RICO Act allows for triple damages.

“While HSUS has spent this holiday season raising money with tear-jerking ads featuring pet rescues, the group really ought to be asking for money to pay their for their defense attorneys and shady dealings,” said CCF Executive Director Richard Berman. “This whole racketeering scheme reeks of something out of a mob drama.”

According to public polling, 71 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that HSUS is a pet shelter umbrella group, and 68 percent wrongly think that HSUS spends most of its money on grants to pet shelters. A recent survey of over 1,000 HSUS donors found that the vast majority gave to the group to help pet shelters or reduce pet euthanasia, and upon learning that HSUS gives just one percent of the money it raises to pet shelters, 80 percent of these donors felt HSUS misleads people.

“HSUS cynically scams pet-loving Americans into giving money based on the false impression that HSUS is an organization devoted to sheltering abused dogs and cats, when it doesn’t even run a single pet shelter,” said Berman. “Every dog gets its day—and in HSUS’s case, that day should be in federal court.”

For further reading about the RICO lawsuit, go to: http://www.humanewatch.org/index.php/pages/detail/rico_lawsuit/

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