A trial over the constitutionality of a USDA rule change ordering the walking horse industry to oversee enforcement of anti-abuse penalties will go on as scheduled, a federal judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means denied a motion for a temporary restraining order requested last month by the Shelbyville-based SHOW Horse Industry Organization.
The trial has been set for Monday, July 16, which will be consolidated with the hearing for SHOW's request for the injunction. The anti-abuse penalties went into effect on Monday.
The new rule requires HIOs that license Designated Qualified Persons (DQPs) as inspectors to assess minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act. SHOW stated in its lawsuit that private organizations do not possess subpoena power or personnel to judge and prosecute cases of horse abuse, and would withdraw from inspections rather than be exposed to possible lawsuits.
However, government attorneys filed a document stating that the HIO/DQP enforcement system is constitutional and the USDA's rule change does not exceed statutory authority nor violate participants' procedural due process rights.
The USDA said last month that the new rule would ensure consistent inspections and enforcement at all shows.
Two plaintiffs in SHOW's suit claimed they would be subject to suspensions under the new rule. But the government memo said harm would only occur if they violated the law by soring their horses.
Dr. Rachel Cezar, the National Horse Proctection Coordinator for the USDA, outlined the protocol of the mandatory penalties for horse industry stakeholders last month: They are:
* Bilateral sore: The horse would be dismissed from the remainder of the show. First offense, one year; Second offense, two years; Third offense, three years.
* Unilateral sore: Dismissed from the remainder of the show. First offense, 60 days; Second offense, 120 days; Third offense, one year.
* Scar rule: Dismissed from the remainder of the show. First offense, two weeks; Second offense, 60 days; Third offense, one year.
* Foreign substance or equipment violation: Dismissed from the remainder of the show with two weeks suspension.
* Suspension violation: six months
All HIOs must have an appeal process with the appeal taking place within 60 days. The results of the hearing must be reported to USDA within 30 days of the ruling.
Cezar explained that the penalty follows the manager, trainer, owner, rider, custodian or transporter whichever is applicable, but does not follow the horse or the show management.
A clarification issued by the USDA in late June stated that those found in violation by an HIO are only suspended from participating in the events the HIO is affiliated with, and are not precluded from participating in shows affiliated with other HIO's.
But HIOs and show managers can still choose to honor suspensions issued by other HIOs, and all HIOs and show managers are required under the Horse Protection Act to recognize USDA federal disqualification periods.