U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued her ruling on May 12th granting The Celebration’s intervention in the case and allowing remand without vacatur of withdrawal of the old 2017 rule.  In the decision Judge Howell gives the USDA 120 days to either issue new rulemaking, which is currently under review, or properly go through the process to formally withdraw the 2017 rule.  If the USDA does not take one of those actions in the next 120 days, then the vacatur will go into effect and the rule will have to be implemented.


With this decision the court is not forcing the USDA to implement the 2017 rule, which is what the Humane Society of the United States was asking the court to do.  As the plaintiffs in the case, HSUS was seeking an immediate, or within some minimal amount of time, enactment of the old rule which would prohibit pads, action devices, hoof bands and turn all enforcement over to the USDA, eliminating the use of the HIO system.


The court’s decision is the first domino to fall in the industry’s fight to keep the show horse.  Attention will now switch to the USDA’s new rule and when it will be made public.  At that time, the industry will go through the comment phase, providing the USDA with the facts regarding aspects of the rule the industry may disagree with.  It is not clear at this point, what changes from the old 2017 rule will be made in the new 2023 rule, but the USDA has repeatedly said it will factor in conclusions from the National Academies of Science study that pointed to deficiencies in the inspection process, the qualifications of those conducting inspections and the scar rule.