Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“ASPCA”) brought this case under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. §552 (“FOIA”), against the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) and its constituent agency the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (“APHIS” and together with USDA, the “Agencies”). This case presents three broad issues. First, the APSCA challenges the Agencies’ redactions of certain information under FOIA Exemption 4, which protects confidential business information. Next, the ASPCA contends that the Agencies improperly withheld information under FOIA Exemption 5, which shields privileged information from disclosure. Finally, the ASPCA charges that the Agencies have adopted a policy and practice of violating the FOIA that requires the Court’s intervention. The parties cross-move for summary judgment on the Agencies’ application of Exemptions 4 and 5. (ECF Nos. 42, 49.) The Agencies move for judgment on the pleadings on the ASPCA’s policy and practice claim (ECF No. 42) and the parties also cross-move for summary judgment on that claim (ECF Nos. 42, 49). For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment on the Agencies’ assertions of the FOIA exemptions and grants the Agencies’ motion for judgment on the pleadings on the ASPCA’s policy and practice claim. BACKGROUND A. The Freedom of Information Act The FOIA requires that federal agencies make their records “promptly available to any person” upon request. 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(3)(A). This mandatory disclosure regime is limited by nine statutory exemptions. Id. §552(b). Moreover, even when information falls under one or more of those exemptions, agencies may withhold that information only if “the agency reasonably foresees that disclosure would harm an interest protected by [the] exemption” or if “disclosure is prohibited by law.” Id. §552(a)(8)(A). Upon receiving a request for information, agencies have 20 business days to determine whether to comply with such requests and to notify the requester of its determination. Id. §552(a)(6)(A)(i). Finally, the FOIA provides a private right of action that permits requesters to challenge whether an agency has improperly withheld information that must be disclosed. Id. §552(a)(4)(B). B. Factual Background The ASPCA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “provide an effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” (Pl.’s Statement of Material Facts and Defs.’ Response (ECF No. 56) (“SOMF”)

1-2.) To further its organizational goals, the ASPCA monitors enforcement of federal animal welfare laws, including by submitting FOIA requests to federal agencies. (See id. 12; Decl. of Tonya Woods Regarding Pl.’s Policy & Practice Allegations (ECF No. 45) (“Woods P&P Decl.”) 32 n.1.) As relevant to this lawsuit, the ASPCA submitted 76 FOIA requests to the Agencies between February 2016 and January 2019. (SOMF 32.) These requests sought information related to the Agencies’ administration and enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. §§2131 et seq. (“AWA”), which is the primary federal statute governing the humane treatment of animals by commercial entities, such as dealers and breeders. 1. The Agencies’ Application of FOIA Exemptions 4 and 51 One type of record that the ASPCA repeatedly requested was annual license renewal applications submitted to APHIS by animal dealers, known as Form 7003. When producing these records to the ASPCA, the Agencies invoked FOIA Exemption 4 to redact information submitted by the dealers regarding their revenue, the number of animals they sold, and their annual license fee, which is calculated based on a dealer’s revenue. (Woods Decl.

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.

More From ALM

Premium Subscription

With this subscription you will receive unlimited access to high quality, online, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry. This is perfect for attorneys licensed in multiple jurisdictions or for attorneys that have fulfilled their CLE requirement but need to access resourceful information for their practice areas.
View Now

Team Accounts

Our Team Account subscription service is for legal teams of four or more attorneys. Each attorney is granted unlimited access to high quality, on-demand premium content from well-respected faculty in the legal industry along with administrative access to easily manage CLE for the entire team.
View Now

Bundle Subscriptions

Gain access to some of the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys with our 2 bundle options! Our Compliance bundles are curated by CLE Counselors and include current legal topics and challenges within the industry. Our second option allows you to build your bundle and strategically select the content that pertains to your needs. Both options are priced the same.
View Now

New York Legal Awards 2021

October 13, 2021
New York, NY

The New York Law Journal honors attorneys and judges who have made a remarkable difference in the legal profession in New York.


BenefitsPRO Broker Expo 2021

May 18, 2021 - August 18, 2021
Virtual / San Diego, CA

The premier educational and networking event for employee benefits brokers and agents.


African Legal Awards 2021

September 03, 2021

The African Legal Awards are set out to recognise exceptional achievement from Africa s legal elite.


Magistrate Judge Vacancy- Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia, United States

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, is accepting applications for magistrate judge to s...

Apply Now ›

Capital Markets Associate – NY, Hartford, Stamford, or Boston

New York, New York, United States

Robinson+Cole, an Am Law 200 Firm, is searching for an attorney to join its Business Transactions practice group in its New York, ...

Apply Now ›

Real Estate Associate, Mid-level

San Francisco, California, United States

Duane Morris LLP has an opening for a real estate associate with 5-6 years of experience working with a firm’s Real Estate/Finance gro...

Apply Now ›



VAN DER VEEN, O NEILL, HARTSHORN, AND LEVIN is pleased to welcome Frank Breitman, Esq. a talented and respected litigator to our ranks of trial lawyers.

View Announcement ›



HARWOOD LLOYD, LLC Welcomes Beth L. Barnhard, Esq. Beth has joined the firm as Counsel in the Wills, Trusts and Estates Department. She is Certified to be an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the ABAaccredited National Elder Law Foundation.

View Announcement ›



SNYDER SARNO D'ANIELLO MACERI & DACOSTA is Proud to Announce the opening of New Morristown Office!

View Announcement ›