Front Range Equine Rescue v. Vilsack, No. 16-2054 (10th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Between fiscal years 2006 and 2011, Congress prohibited the use of funds for inspection, thereby preventing commercial equine slaughter. In fiscal year 2012, Congress lifted the ban on funding and Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) received several applications for inspection. The agency issued grants of inspection to two commercial equine slaughter facilities: Valley Meat Company, LLC and Responsible Transportation, LLC. Front Range Equine Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, and several other individuals and organizations (collectively, "Front Range") sued officials of the USDA, seeking a declaration that grants of inspection generally violated the National Environmental Policy Act and requesting that the court set aside the specific grants of inspection. Front Range also moved to enjoin the Federal Defendants from authorizing equine slaughter during the pendency of the claims. The district court granted Front Range's motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), prohibiting the Federal Defendants from sending inspectors to the equine slaughterhouses of, or otherwise providing equine inspection services. The court additionally sua sponte enjoined Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation from engaging in commercial equine slaughter. Valley Meat opposed Front Range's motion, arguing that it should be restrained and Front Range should be required to post a bond because an injunction against the Federal Defendants effectively also enjoined its operations. The district court never ruled on Front Range's motion, but denied Front Range's request for a permanent injunction and dismissed the action. Front Range immediately appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit temporarily enjoined the Federal Defendants from sending inspectors but did not enjoin Valley Meat or Responsible Transportation. Then, the Court dismissed the appeal as moot: (1) because Congress once again made it unlawful to engage in commercial equine slaughter for human consumption; and (2) while the appeal was pending, Valley Meat "decided to abandon all plans to slaughter equines and asked FSIS to withdraw its grant of inspection." The Tenth Circuit then vacated the district court's order denying a permanent injunction, "based on the underlying equitable principle that a party should not have to bear the consequences of an adverse ruling when frustrated by the vagaries of the circumstances." Valley Meat and Responsible Transportation moved to recover an injunction bond. A magistrate judge recommended that the motion be denied, and the district court adopted the magistrate's recommendation in full. Valley Meat appealed the denial of damages on the injunction bond. To this point, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying recovery against the injunction bond because there was never a ruling that Valley Meat was wrongfully enjoined. "This conclusion alone is enough to affirm the district court's decision."