A federal judge has allowed a lawsuit that could have prevented a New Mexico horse processing plant from opening to expire.

Horse slaughter has not taken place in the United States since 2007 when a combination of court rulings and legislation shuttered the last domestic equine processing plants. Prior to 2007, USDA personnel carried out inspections at horse processing plants until Congress voted to strip the USDA of funds to pay personnel conducting those federal inspections. Subsequently, Department of Agriculture funding bills contained amendments denying the USDA of funds to conduct horse processing plant inspections until Nov. 2011 when Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed an appropriations bill that did not contain language specifically forbidding the agency from using federal dollars to fund horse slaughter plant inspections.

In June 2013, Atty. Blair Dunn, who represents the owners of the Valley Meats Co. LLC, in Roswell, N.M., announced that the company had received a USDA Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) permit, which allows placement of personnel at the plant to carry out horsemeat inspections. Dunn said Valley Meats would employ between 40 and 100 workers and would serve markets outside the United States.

In its written statement at the time, a USDA representative said that unless Congress votes to enact another funding ban, the agency is legally bound to conduct horse meat inspections at the New Mexico plant.

In April 2013, the Front Range Equine Rescue and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced that they would bring a federal lawsuit challenging any permit issued to Valley Meats on grounds