Animal groups agree to pay nearly $16M to Ringling

This March 19, 2013 file photo shows a performer waving as elephants with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show walk in front of the Capitol in Washington on their way to the Verizon Center. The parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has received a nearly $16 million settlement from a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle initiated over unproven allegations of mistreated elephants. The lawsuits in federal court in Washington have dragged on for more than a decade. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON - The parent company of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus says it has received a nearly $16 million settlement from the Humane Society of the United States and other animal-rights groups.

The settlement ends a decade-old lawsuit in which multiple animal-rights groups alleged the circus mistreated its elephants. In 2012, a judge said the complaint was frivolous and forced the circus' owner, Vienna, Virginia-based Feld Entertainment, to spend millions in legal fees.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had already agreed separately to pay more than $9 million to settle.

Feld issued a statement saying Thursday's final settlement is a vindication of its practices.

The Humane Society says it settled because it didn't believe the court would address its core claims regarding elephant abuse.