Posted May 30, 2001

by Christy Parsons

In the latest chapter in the lawsuit between the American Horse Protection Association (AHPA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the court has ruled that the Show Horse Support Fund (SHSF) does have the right to enter the lawsuit. The AHPA challenged that motion in an attempt to stop the SHSF from becoming a party to the lawsuit, but the court granted the SHSF’s motion to intervene.

According to SHSF Attorney Tom Blankenship, “it is extremely important that the court ruled the SHSF had the right to intervene as a matter of right.” By granting that right, the court recognizes SHSF’s legal responsibility to be a part of the suit.

“This is important because the SHSF is representing interests that are particular to the show horse industry that other groups (like the USDA) cannot adequately represent,” said Blankenship.

As it relates to the overall lawsuit, Blankenship explained that the court could not rule on the merits of the case until the issue of SHSF’s involvement was resolved. There are also two motions before the court which have as of yet not been ruled on. First, the AHPA has requested the court to hear oral arguments, and secondly, there are motions and countermotions for summary judgment as well as a motion to dismiss the case.

The case has been on what is called in legal circles a “rocket docket” with the court requiring the filing of various motions very quickly. In fact, there was less than 30 days from the date that the SHSF filed its motion to intervene that the court required all motions to be filed.

The AHPA originally filed suit against the USDA alleging that the Department did not have the authority to absolutely delegate its enforcement authority to the industry HIOs and to preclude the implementation of the Operating Plan 2001-2003. The USDA alleges that they have not made an absolute delegation of that authority (they are still inspecting horse shows) and that the regulations in the 1976 amendment to the Horse Protection Act clearly provide for broadbased participation by industry HIOs in the inspection process.