Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Case to Enforce FOIA’s Proactive Disclosure Mandate

Today, the district court for the Western District of New York denied a motion to dismiss a case that we brought on behalf of our clients, the Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary. The case aims to compel the United States Department of Agriculture and its Food Safety and Inspection Service to obey the proactive disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by placing certain records related to farm animal welfare online, including records of non-compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act. Our clients and others use these records to monitor the agencies’ enforcement (or lack of enforcement) of these important statutes and to advocate for more effective enforcement, statutory and regulatory reform, and improved treatment of farm animals. As such, our clients and others have a long history of frequently requesting these records under FOIA. FOIA, in turn, requires agencies to place certain frequently records online without burdening the public with the need to file repeated FOIA requests for essentially the same information—a requirement that federal agencies often ignore. Today’s ruling is an important victory that brings our clients one step closer to enforcing FOIA’s proactive disclosure mandate.