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Hoctor v. United States Department of Agriculture

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
82 F.3d 165 (7th Cir. 1996)


The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (Act) was designed to assure the humane treatment of animals. The Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate rules and regulations as necessary to effectuate the purposes of the Act. The Act specifically requires the Department of Agriculture to formulate standards for the handling, care, treatment and transportation of animals. 7 U.S.C. § 2143(a). Pursuant to the Act, the Department of Agriculture employed the notice and comment procedure to promulgate a regulation, entitled “structural strength”, that provides that the “facility [housing the animals] must be of such material and of such strength as appropriate for the animals involved. The indoor and outdoor housing facilities shall be structurally sound and shall be maintained in good repair to protect the animals from injury and to contain the animals.” 9 C.F.R. § 3.125(a). Patrick Hoctor (plaintiff) was a dealing in big cats, including lions, tigers, cougars, and leopards. In 1982, Hoctor housed these animals in an enclosure with a six-foot perimeter fence. The next year, the Department issued an internal memorandum to its inspectors requiring perimeter fences for big cats be eight feet high pursuant to the “structural strength” rule. Hoctor was cited for his violation of this rule. Hoctor brought suit challenging the validity of the eight-foot rule.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Posner, J.)

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