Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Federal Court Rules Against Lawsuit: USDA's Tennessee Walking Horse Anti-Soring Regulations Are Not Unlawful

A U.S. District Court in Texas upheld federal regulations to prevent the practice of “soring,” in which trainers abuse horses to force them to perform an unnatural high-stepping gait for competitions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, which were adopted following a 2010 legal petition filed by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), require that USDA-certified horse industry organizations impose uniform mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act.

The regulations also authorize the USDA to de-certify organizations that do not comply. "Horse industry organizations", in this case, are the industry’s self-policing groups that inspect Tennessee walking horses at competitions for signs of soring. These industry-provided inspectors work alongside the USDA.

Horse industry organization SHOW and two Walking horse show participants sued the USDA, contending that the regulations were unlawful and in violation of their constitutional rights. The HSUS then filed a briefing in defense of the regulations.

The court ruled that the mandatory minimum penalty regulations are constitutional and within the USDA’s statutory authority to protect horses.

Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations for The HSUS, said: “This lawsuit shows that segments of the industry have no interest in upholding their responsibilities under the Horse Protection Act and finally stamping out the brutal practice of soring.

"We call on USDA to de-certify any horse industry organization that has refused to adopt the mandatory penalties, including SHOW, which is responsible for inspections at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration,” he continued.

The HSUS was represented in the matter pro bono by attorneys from the law firm of Latham & Watkins and its own lawyers.

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