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WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 that filed a frivolous lawsuit against them.

The lawsuits in federal court in Washington have dragged on for more than a decade. In 2012, a judge said the case, alleging abusive treatment of elephants, 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 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.

A Humane Society spokeswoman says a statement will be released Thursday.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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