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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. United States Department of Agriculture

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20150
Nos. 14-5157, (D.C. Cir., 08/11/2015)

The D.C. Circuit held that USDA's failure to apply general animal welfare standards to birds does not violate the APA. In 2004, USDA announced that it intended to apply the protections of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to birds. Although the Agency has taken steps to craft avian-specific animal welfare regulations, it has yet to complete its task after more than 10 years and, during the intervening time, has allegedly not applied the Act's general animal welfare regulations to birds. An animal rights group filed suit, arguing that USDA's inaction amounted to agency action "unlawfully withheld" in violation of the APA. But the court disagreed. Nothing in the AWA requires USDA to apply the general animal welfare standards to birds before it has promulgated more appropriate bird-specific regulations. As such, the group cannot plausibly allege that USDA has failed to take a discrete agency action it was legally required to take. The court, therefore, affirmed the lower court's dismissal of the case, albeit on different grounds.