DENVER – The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has blocked federal inspections of horse slaughter facilities.

Animal rights groups submitted an emergency request for a temporary injunction against federal inspections at Valley Meat Co., Roswell, NM, and Rains Natural Meats in Missouri. The groups argued the injunction was necessary to prevent environmental harm while their appeal of a lower court ruling is pending. Plaintiffs in the case are The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue, the state of New Mexico and other individuals.

In their lawsuit, the groups claim the US Department of Agriculture failed to carry out environmental impact studies before it issued grants of inspection to the three companies. But US District Judge Christina Armijo threw out the lawsuit and denied a request for permanent injunction.

The groups are calling on Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports Act which would ban horse slaughter. "Congress should also include language in appropriations legislation that outlaws the use of taxpayer dollars to fund inspections at horse slaughter facilities," HSUS said on its website.

Sue Wallis, chairman of the International Equine Business Association and a rancher in Wyoming, said the appeals court has a very abbreviated schedule to hear petition. A decision could come as soon as Nov. 11.

"Based on the very thorough and decisive ruling from Judge Armijo, let's just say that we're hopeful that we are provided an opportunity to try to get into business at the end of this delay," Wallis said. "Everything HSUS is alleging is wrong and false; we're just being bullied."

Wallis added that the best case scenario would be the appeals court deciding not to hear the case. The case isFront Range Equine Rescue et al v. Vilsack et al, 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-2187.