*This story has been updated with additional details and background.
KANSAS CITY — Citing federal budget restrictions, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has turned down a permit request from a northwest Missouri business that sought to process horses for meat.
The DNR said in a letter Thursday to David Rains, owner of Rains Natural Meats in Gallatin, that the agency has denied Rains' permit request for his proposed horse slaughter operation because the new federal budget withheld funding for required federal inspections of the slaughtering process.
The resumption of commercial horse slaughter in the U.S. was effectively blocked last week when President Barack Obama signed a budget measure that stops the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending money for inspections necessary for slaughterhouses to ship horse meat interstate and export it.
"Because this federal action effectively prohibits the processing of horses, further evaluation of your application to amend the permit to allow such activity is unwarranted. Your application is therefore denied," Steven Feeler, deputy director of the DNR's Division of Environmental Quality, said in the letter to Rains.
Feeler said Rains could, however, continue with processing other animals for meat under his existing permit. He also said Rains had 30 days to appeal.
Rains did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday.
The last domestic horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, a year after Congress first withheld inspection funding. Federal money was restored in 2011, prompting Rains and plants in New Mexico and Iowa to try to start horse slaughtering.
The issue of slaughtering horses for meat has divided several groups over what they consider the most humane way to deal with the country's horse overpopulation. Proponents of horse slaughter say it's better to kill the animals in humane, federally regulated facilities in the U.S. than have them abandoned to starve across the drought-stricken West or shipped to inhumane facilities in Mexico.
The Humane Society of the United States and other animal welfare groups have called domestic horse slaughter barbaric and have said they will continue to try to block a return to domestic horse meat processing.