Federal Wild Horse Lawsuit Hearing Set for Friday
Groundbreaking Case will be Heard in Sacramento on the Merits
SACREMENTO, (In Defense of Animals) – Last April, in a precedent-setting decision, Judge Morrison C. England, Jr. refused to dismiss the case on legal technicalities, meaning it will be decided on the merits. Judge England also ruled that
the plaintiffs – animal protection organization In Defense of Animals (IDA), ecologist Chad Hanson, Ph.D., wild horse sanctuary founder Barbara Clarke, DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary, and wild horse enthusiast Linda Hay – have standing to challenge the action and that the case is not moot.
“The American Mustang is a native wildlife species; few people realize that the western United States is actually the evolutionary birthplace of the horse,” said Ms. Fazio. “This suit seeks to ensure that, in accordance with the laws of Congress, this majestic species is protected as wild and free-roaming, safe from illegal interference by the BLM and immune to the pressures of the livestock industry and other commercial interests that wish to exploit our public lands.” “Because of Judge England’s decision last April, tomorrow’s hearing will be about the merits of our case and not legal technicalities,” said Eric Kleiman, Research Director for In Defense of Animals. “Tomorrow, America’s wild horses will finally have their day in court.” Kleiman also noted that one of lawsuit’s major claims involves BLM’s failure to euthanize old, sick or lame horses “in the most humane manner possible.” He said that the legislative history cited by plaintiffs clearly shows that Congress expected that such euthanizing should occur on the range – and before any roundup would take place.
Plaintiffs’ pleadings repeatedly cite what Kleiman termed a “devastating” photograph and description in the lawsuit’s administrative record (from IDA’s comments on the proposed Twin Peaks roundup) of a “crippled sorel stud” who had been observed on the range in 2003 in the Nevada Calico Complex HMA by a BLM wild horse specialist. This horse – who was not part of the 2010 Twin Peaks roundup – had a “broken front right pastern” that was so “curled back” that “ He carries this leg when traveling at a hop,” and was in such bad shape that he might have to be euthanized “at some date.”
Kleiman said that that this horse is an example of the old, sick or lame whom BLM does nothing to preclude from being rounded up. “This horse is the face of BLM cruelty,” said Kleiman. “How many countless other old, sick or lame horses like this ‘crippled sorel stud’ has BLM deliberately and indiscriminately stampeded by helicopter in clear defiance of the law and Congress’s mandate that BLM treat horses humanely?”
Twin Peaks horses have been scattered across the country at Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) holding facilities, and untold numbers have perished while in captivity.
Plaintiffs have revisited the Twin Peaks area and report difficulty locating wild horses to view in the aftermath of the roundup. Between August and September 2010 – the hottest months of the year – the BLM removed 1,579 wild horses and 159 burros from the HMA. The roundup was a devastating blow to California’s wild horse and burro population, removing more than one-third of California’s entire mustang and burro population which is estimated to be only approximately 5,000 throughout the entire state. The Twin Peaks HMA encompasses 798,000 acres of public land, yet the BLM allows just 448 to 758 wild horses and 72 to 116 burros to reside in the area.
Meanwhile, the agency authorizes up to four times more cattle and nearly seven times more sheep to graze this federally-designated wild horse and burro habitat. Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Currently the BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public lands of which cattle grazing is allowed on 160 million acres; wild horses are only allowed on 26.6 million acres this land, which must be shared with cattle. The Obama Administration has accelerated the removal of wild horses and burros from public lands. There are currently thousands more wild horses warehoused in government holding facilities than living free on the range.
In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif.
dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi.
dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi.For more information, visit www.idausa.org.