By Catherine Van, KOLO-TV
FALLON, Nev. - A late Friday night ruling throws chaos into the mix at the Fallon Livestock Exchange. A Reno Federal Court judge granted a wild horse advocacy group a temporary restraining order against them, which pushed them back five hours in today's auction, all because advocacy groups claim the horses were gathered illegally from public ranges.
What was supposed to be a routine horse auction in Fallon, turned into a nightmare for the livestock exchange crew.
"It was awkward and cumbersome and it wasn't anyone's plan except it was our plan," Ellie Phipps Price, American Wild Horse campaign supporter said.
Judge Miranda Du says advocates raised "serious questions" on how these horses were rounded up in the first place.
"They were from McDermitt, and inquired to the Forest Service and inquired to the BLM, and went 'oh my gosh, we have wild horses coming off of federal land and they're going to be sold for auction and it's wrong," Laura Leigh, Horse Education founder said.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act in 1971 protects unbranded horses, but the question is if the horses came from on federal or tribal land.
"Our main concern is in protecting America's wild horses," Price said. "For America's wild horses which are federally protected, slaughtering is not an option."
A little under 500 horses were slated for auction, but advocates claim more than 150 horses have no marks of ownership or brands.
"Physically went through, counted them, looked for brands, it took a while for us to do that, but it's the ultimate betrayal," Leigh said.
Advocates came as early as 7 a.m., an hour before the auction, to make sure none get sold.
Monte Bruck, the manager of the Fallon Livestock Exchange says the order was excessive, adding that it put the horses out of their element longer than necessary.
For now, the fate of the wild horses lies in the hands of the court. The hearing for the fate of the unbranded horses will be Wednesday, Aug. 21.