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USDA Comments On Fifth Circuit Ruling

The Walking Horse Report reached out to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeking comment regarding the recent ruling of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned the Minimum Penalty Protocol previously mandated by the USDA.  The USDA, through Tanya Espinosa did not directly answer the questions regarding if they would appeal or if this decision affected the decertification process for the SHOW HIO.  

The decertification of SHOW was based upon their initial failure to implement the Minimum Penalty Protocol during the lawsuit SHOW, Contender Farms and Mike McGartland filed and subsequently lost in district court.  The USDA did however issue the following statement to WHR:

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is currently working with our counsel to review the decision made by the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit  and determine our next steps. We remain committed to our mission of eliminating the cruel and inhumane practice of soring, and we will continue to use rigorous inspections conducted by our trained and professional veterinarians and to maintain strong oversight of horse industry organizations to achieve this mission."

The Fifth Circuit left little doubt about the unconstitutionality of the rulemaking USDA implemented to force HIOs to enforce the Minimum Penalty Protocol.  The opinion stated, "In sum, the Regulation is an indisputably significant effort by the USDA to become involved in HIO enforcement procedures. Although participants in horse shows have always been subject to regulations from both HIOs and the USDA, the USDA has now taken intrusive steps into the private scheme to strengthen the penalties that HIOs must levy against those found to sore horses."

It went on to read, "The USDA purports to draw its authority to adopt the Regulation from several provisions of the HPA. Upon examining these provisions, we conclude that none of these provisions authorizes the Regulation but conversely, that these provisions plainly prohibit the Regulation."

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