Wild horse advocates sue to protect Alto herd

By Dave Tomlin, Ruidoso News

August 29, 2016

The Wild Horse Observers Association filed suit in 12th District Court Monday to prevent the New Mexico Livestock Board from selling the herd of unowned horses captured near Alto last week.

News reports have placed the size of the seized herd at 12, but the complaint filed by WHOA’s attorney Steven K. Sanders of Albuquerque, puts the number at 19.

The suit seeks “an order enjoining (the Livestock Board) from undertaking further activities that involve the impoundment, possession, removal, sale, or the disposition of wild horses as though the horses were estray livestock.”

The suit also asks the court to declare “that the horse herd in the Lincoln County area are wild horses under the laws of the state of New Mexico.”

That assertion may be contested when proceedings begin in the case.

The complaint notes that under New Mexico law, “a ‘wild horse’ is ‘an unclaimed horse on public land that is not an estray.’”

Attorney David G. Reynolds, who also practices equine law and represented landowners in an almost identical wild horse controversy two years ago in Placitas, said the wording of the statute meant that unowned horses found on private land are not “wild horses.”

Since the New Mexico Court of Appeals declared in the Placitas case that they are not livestock either, Reynolds said such horses on private land have no more protection under the law than skunks, raccoons or other intruders. Land owners can dispatch them on the spot if they want. The Alto herd was captured by a private landowner and turned over to the Livestock Board.

But Sanders disagreed with Reynolds.

“I don’t think the state can change its obligation by picking them up on one location rather than another,” Sanders said in a phone interview.

The suit asserts that “the wild horses have become a staple of life for the people in Lincoln County, and a vast majority of residents support and prefer the presence of these wild horses living on the public lands as well as roaming private lands in their community.”

Originally posted by Ruidoso News