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Contender Farms, McGartland’s and SHOW File Second Suit Against USDA

On February 29, 2016, Contender Farms, L.L.P., Lee and Mike McGartland and SHOW, Inc. filed a complaint in the Fort Worth division of the United States District Court regarding the illegal enforcement schemes utilized by the USDA that are not authorized under the Horse Protection Act.  The HPA states the following:

While horses are disqualified from events based solely on the opinion of an authorized inspector, when a civil penalty may be assessed against an owner, trainer or entrant, HPA §1825(b) prescribes that “no penalty shall be assessed unless such person is given notice and opportunity for a hearing before the Secretary with respect to such violation.”

The USDA has instituted two enforcement schemes, the “Protocol for Foreign Substance Penalty,” and the “IES Investigative and Enforcement Process,” under which the USDA decides entrants are in violation of the HPA.  The suit filed by the plaintiffs claim both enforcement schemes are illegal and not authorized by the HPA.  In addition, the suit challenges the USDA’s use of information from private inspectors’ activities, which the USDA uses to falsely identify people as having been determined to have violated the HPA.

The language in the complaint specifically states:

“Plaintiffs challenge the USDA’s use of three enforcement mechanisms that are not authorized under the HPA, and which directly contravene the requirement in §1825(b) that only the Secretary, after notice and hearing can penalize a person for a violation.  Plaintiffs challend the USDA’s use of two unauthorized and unlawful administrative enforcement schemes: the “Protocol for Foreign Substance Penalty,” and the “IES Investigative and Enforcement Process,” under which the USDA decides that entrants, trainers and owners have violated the Act’s prohibition against entering sore horses. T1:1;T2:2.  Plaintiffs also challenge the USDA’s use of private party information about private inspectors’ activities, which the USDA uses to falsely identify people as having been determined to have violated the Act.  Since none of these enforcement schemes is authorized by a Department regulation or by the HPA, this suit does not involve a challenge to any provision of the HPA or USDA regulation.”

If Contender Farms, McGartland’s and SHOW prevail the USDA will be required to remove the thousands of names they have published as violators of the HPA on the APHIS web site in error.  Organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) utilize these lists to further their fundraising and lobbying initiatives and claim, in error, that these names represent violations of the HPA.

Prior to the filing of this second lawsuit, Judge Means ruled in favor of these same plaintiffs against the USDA in their request for reimbursement of fees.  Judge Means awarded the plaintiffs over $267,000, which the USDA will be required to pay.

Click Here to view the complaint filed.

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