APHIS Dusts Off Animal Handling Contingency Planning Rules

Today, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued advance notice that, on June 25, 2021, the agency will publish notice in the Federal Register of its intention to implement regulations, adopted in 2012, that require entities subject to the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to have contingency plans for handling animals in the event of possible emergencies or disasters.  The rules, which had been prompted by events during the 2005 hurricane season, had been stayed by APHIS since July 31, 2013 based on claims by small entities that these regulatory requirements were excessive. Continue reading “APHIS Dusts Off Animal Handling Contingency Planning Rules”

Activist Case Involving Chicken Farm Fails in D.C. Circuit on Standing Grounds

On June 22, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed an action brought by Food & Water Watch against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) challenging the environmental assessment made in connection with the Farm Service Agency’s guarantee of loan to a Maryland chicken farmer.  Food & Water Watch v. U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture, ___ F.3d ___, No. 20-5100 (D.C. Cir. June 22, 2021).  Plaintiff had argued that the agency’s finding of no significant impact for the guarantee violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The district court found standing to sue but rejected the plaintiff’s challenge on its merits.  On appeal, however, the D.C. Circuit ruled that the plaintiff had no Article III standing. Continue reading “Activist Case Involving Chicken Farm Fails in D.C. Circuit on Standing Grounds”

Ninth Circuit Bounces Consumer’s Claim of Misleading Poultry Product Labeling

On June 4, 2021, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a putative state law consumer class action claiming that chicken products marketed by Trade Joe’s were mislabeled.  Webb v. Trader Joe’s Co., ___ F.3d ___,  No. 19-56389 (9th Cir. June 4, 2021).  The labels stated that the products contained “[u]p to 5% retained water,” but plaintiff claimed that an independent laboratory test showed that the products “contained on average, 9% Retained Water.”  Slip op. at 5.  The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that all of plaintiff’s claims were pre-empted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), 21 U.S.C. § 467e. Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Bounces Consumer’s Claim of Misleading Poultry Product Labeling”

D.C. Circuit Ducks Constitutionality of USDA ALJ’s — For Now

A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently decided a significant case for those animal-related businesses who are subject to regulation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Fleming v. U.S. Dep’t of Agriculture, No. 17-1246, 1249 & 1250 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 16, 2021). Continue reading “D.C. Circuit Ducks Constitutionality of USDA ALJ’s — For Now”

COVID-19: USDA Confirms First U.S. Case of SARS-CoV-2 in Pet Dog

by John M. Simpson.

On June 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 in a pet dog in New York state.  The dog, a German shepherd, had shown signs of respiratory illness and samples were taken and confirmed to be positive for the virus by the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Continue reading “COVID-19: USDA Confirms First U.S. Case of SARS-CoV-2 in Pet Dog”

USDA Issues Amendments to Animal Welfare Act Licensing Regulations

by John M. Simpson.

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published final amendments to the regulations governing the licensing of animal dealers, exhibitors and operators of auction sales under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), 7 U.S.C. § 2131 et seq. Continue reading “USDA Issues Amendments to Animal Welfare Act Licensing Regulations”

9th Circuit Rejects Animal Rights Organization’s Claim That a Bengal Tiger is an “Individual” Under FOIA

by John M. Simpson.

Yesterday, in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, et al., ___ F.3d ___, No. 18-16327 (9th Cir. Aug. 12, 2019), the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a summary judgment of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California holding that a Bengal tiger is not an “individual” within the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).   The case had been brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) denied ALDF’s request for expedited treatment of its FOIA request for records concerning an inspection request regarding a tiger named “Tony.”     Continue reading “9th Circuit Rejects Animal Rights Organization’s Claim That a Bengal Tiger is an “Individual” Under FOIA”

Significant U.S. Supreme Court FOIA Decision Likely To Complicate Activist Agendas

by John M. Simpson.

As many lawyers representing animal-related businesses regulated by U.S. federal government agencies can attest to, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by animal activist interests has become what amounts to a cottage industry.  Animal activist groups are prolific in their FOIA requests to various federal animal-related agencies — such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which regulates animal exhibitors and researchers under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) — for information on the persons and entities subject to USDA regulation.  This quest for business information typically unfolds as follows:  a business will mark its internal commercial and financial information “confidential” when submitting it to the agency in connection with an agency proceeding; the information is then requested through FOIA; the agency withholds it under FOIA Exemption 4; and then the fight becomes whether the release of the information will inflict “substantial competitive harm” on the submitter.  This all changed today with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481, Slip opinion (U.S. June 24, 2019).  Continue reading “Significant U.S. Supreme Court FOIA Decision Likely To Complicate Activist Agendas”

Eighth Circuit Upholds Trump Administration’s Scuttling of Packers and Stockyards Act Rules

By John M. Simpson.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently denied a petition for review of the Secretary of Agriculture’s actions to withdraw interim final and proposed regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA).  Organization for Competitive Markets, et al., v. Dep’t of Agriculture, et al., No. 17-3723 (8th Cir. Dec. 21, 2018).  The  interim final and proposed rules had been issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Obama Administration in late 2016 but were scuttled by the Trump Administration.  Continue reading “Eighth Circuit Upholds Trump Administration’s Scuttling of Packers and Stockyards Act Rules”