Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said this week it has received a nearly $16 million settlement from the U.S. Humane Society and other animal-rights groups that filed a lawsuit against the circus, according to the Associated Press.

The original lawsuit was filed by a former elephant trainer in 2000. However, the plaintiff had received about $200,000 from animal right activities. Therefore, a judge ruled he was a “paid plaintiff” and dismissed the lawsuit in 2009, but Feld Entertainment counter sued.  The lawsuits in federal court in Washington have dragged on for more than a decade.  Yesterday, 14 years after the original suit, the circus settled for $16 million to be paid by the Humane Society and other animal rights groups.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals already agreed separately to pay more than $9.3 million to settle.

Kenneth Feld, CEO of the privately held company that also produces Disney on Ice and other shows, said it an interview that the animal-rights groups abused the legal system.  “The fact that we could get dragged through this for 14 years…I think it is very clearly a public vindication for our company that these people really misused the judicial system,” Feld said.