The Humane Society of the United States continues to push the DC circuit to force the USDA to implement the 2017 Horse Protection Act rule that would devastate the current show horse.  The DC Circuit Court of Appeals recently rejected the USDA’s appeal of their earlier decision and denied the intervention request of The Celebration.

The DC Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the district court to consider the remedy in the case.  HSUS insists in its initial briefs that the only solution is to vacate the withdrawal of the rule and implement the rule immediately.  The USDA will file response briefs in the coming weeks and will argue against vacating of the rule as they have stated they have a new rule coming out and don’t want to implement the old rule.  

The USDA has been on record not wanting to implement the old rule due to several problems in the rule. “We withdrew that rule because the data that supported it was outdated, and we wanted to use new data plus the National Academies report to come out with a more solid rule. There are people opposed to what we do in horse protection, and they’re not shy about suing us. So when we put a regulation in place, we want it to be as airtight as possible. To have just used the old rule, I think, would’ve made us vulnerable for a legal attack. We want to put out an up-to-date rule based on good data, and it’s our intention and Secretary Vilsack’s intention to do that. We hope to do it, certainly, by the end of this calendar year (2022). And, of course, we’re always hoping Congress might act, too.”

The Celebration is also seeking intervention before the DC circuit in this phase of the case as well and will be submitting briefs arguing against the need to vacate the six-year-old rule’s withdrawal.  The briefing in the case should be complete by mid-March with a decision from the court following.  The exact timing of that decision is not known and will be impacted by the amount of caseload in front of the judge.

In remanding the case back to the district court, the Court of Appeals recommended to the lower court to consider alternate remedies to vacating of the withdrawal.  Depending on the decision of the judge, USDA and potentially the industry will have several different courses of action to consider.
The industry commented on the rule back in 2017 and fiercely opposed many of the stipulations in that rule, including the elimination of the pad, action device, band and weighted shoe as well as the abolishment of the Horse Industry Organization system and a total reliance on the federal government for enforcement of the HPA.  It is safe to assume the industry would immediately seek a stay on the implementation of the rule and file litigation challenging the validity of the rule.

The old rule does not take into consideration any data or recommendations from the National Academies of Science review of the inspection process, which was jointly funded by the industry, USDA and State of Tennessee.  The USDA has publicly stated that the new rule will take into account this study as well as many other updates to the old rule.  The old rule is reliant on data that is up to 10-15 years old and doesn’t consider more current inspection data from the industry and USDA which is dramatically different.