ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - The lawyer for the owner of the Roswell company that wants to open a horse slaughterhouse claims the federal government is illegally delaying the opening and that has cost his client millions.
Valley Meat Company owner, Rick de los Santos, sued the federal government last year because of the delays.
His lawyer, A. Blair Dunn, says the Department of Justice has repeatedly put off responding to the suit, but the deadline for a response is just ahead.
Dunn claims the U.S. Department of Agriculture is playing politics.
He says de los Santos met all USDA requirements and the plant passed a federal inspection back in April.
But he still has not received the official grant of inspection necessary to get the business going.
Dunn believes USDA is stalling, hoping Congress resolves the issue for them:
"They are basically saying, ‘We are not going to do our jobs because we're going to wait for Congress to change the law so we don't have to.' Well, that's not permissible under the law," Dunn said.
House and Senate committees have both approved bills that would block the USDA from using money to fund inspections of horse slaughterhouses. That would effectively stop horse slaughter.
But that legislation is still a long way from final passage.
"They still haven't really sorted out the sequestration issues and the major budget issues for the country, so the chances of an appropriations bill of any sort making it out of both houses before the end of the year is not likely to happen," Dunn said.
He claims de los Santos has lost about $9 million over the past year and a half while his business has been in limbo.
He is suing the government for that money.
He says the Department of Justice has until Friday to respond, and de los Santos and his wife aren't backing down:
"They're going to stick to their guns and do what they think is, first of all, the right thing and, second of all, what they've committed their business to," Dunn said.
He told KRQE that DOJ asked Monday if de los Santos would drop the lawsuit if he now gets that grant of inspection.
But that still doesn't address the issue of damages.
While no one is predicting when or if Congress might pass a bill to block horse slaughterhouses, it has bipartisan support in both houses.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham told KRQE, "I am encouraged that the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have each advanced bipartisan amendments that would effectively reinstate the ban on slaughtering horses for human consumption."
A representative from Sen. Tom Udall's office said the senator "believes horse slaughter for human consumption is not a practical solution, or a practice that American's want." Sen. Martin Heinrich has also spoken out against the slaughter of horses.
However, Rep. Steve Pearce has a different view on the issue. He said in a statement, "If horse slaughter is not allowed in the U.S., horses are merely shipped to other countries, where the pregnant, starving, and lame horses face far less humane slaughter than they would here."
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