The ASPCA did not admit any wrongdoing in its settlement and released a statement from President and CEO Ed Sayres that the group “concluded that it is in the best interests of the organization to resolve this expensive, protracted litigation.” Expensive and protracted litigation the group initiated, of course.

Feld’s case against the other defendants — including Rider, the Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Protection Institute United with Born Free USA, and the Humane Society USA, which became a party to the suit when it merged with the Fund for Animals in 2005 — continues.

Payments to Rider were made through nonprofit organizations set up by these groups. The Daily Caller reported, “Evidence in the trial showed that some of the funds paid to the nonprofit pass-through group were provided by the Humane Society of the United States with a check signed by its CEO, Wayne Pacelle.”

The case against the other defendants was brought under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which was created to combat organized crime. How far this case will go remains to be seen. But with the ASPCA settling, the financial burden these groups sought to impose on Ringling in fighting their claims now rests fully on their shoulders and is growing every day.

I suspect that there are a lot more nonprofits out there subject to this sort of legal counterattack.