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Animal Legal Defense Fund v. USDA

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20128
Nos. 16-5073, (D.C. Cir., 09/29/2017)

The D.C. Circuit held that the USDA did not violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) when it renewed the licenses of animal exhibitors the agency knew was in violation of numerous animal welfare requirements. Animal activists brought suit against the agency, challenging its renewal of a license to an Iowa zoo that was in violation of the AWA. The activists argued that the license renewal was contrary to the requirement that an exhibitor demonstrate its facilities comply with AWA standards, and that the agency's reliance on the zoo owner's self-certification as part of its renewal determination, despite knowledge to the contrary, was arbitrary and capricious. The court disagreed, finding that the AWA implementing regulations make it clear that the agency interprets the statute not to require an existing licensee to satisfy the same requirements that an applicant for an initial license must satisfy in order to have its license renewed. However, the court remanded the issue of the reliance on self-certification, because the mere fact that a regulatory scheme is generally consistent with the agency’s authorizing statute does not shield each agency action taken under the scheme from arbitrary and capricious review.