Wild Horse & Conservation Groups Allege Feds Failed to Protect Wild Horses in Tribal Roundup; 467 Horses Await Fate at Slaughter Auction

Reno, Nevada (August 16, 2013) . . . A coalition of wild horse advocacy and conservation groups last night filed a federal lawsuit to block the sale of wild horses at a slaughter auction in Fallon, Nevada scheduled for August 17, 2013. The horses were rounded up off public and tribal lands in northern Nevada last weekend after the U.S. Forest Service pulled the plug on a federally-funded helicopter roundup operation that had been scheduled to begin August 9.

The complaint, filed against the Forest Service by the public interest law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national coalition, its parent organization, Return to Freedom, The Cloud Foundation, Western Watersheds Project and Laura Leigh alleges that unbranded horses captured by the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Tribe may, in fact, be federally-protected wild free-roaming horses that migrated from the nearby Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Little Owyhee Herd Management Area.

The lawsuit states, “The Forest Service’s decision to authorize the roundup of horses on National Forest lands in close proximity to the Fort McDermott Paiute and Shoshone Reservation without taking any measures to ensure that the roundup did not include removing wild horses from the public lands violated the agency’s duties to protect such horses under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”

The groups are seeking a court order to ensure that the Forest Services takes “all necessary steps to ensure that all wild horses currently located at the Fallon Livestock Exchange sale yard are identified and returned to the public lands as soon and as humanely as possible.”

A total of 467 horses were captured by the tribe and delivered to the slaughter auction, according to officials, where they await their fate. An undetermined number of these horses are unbranded and likely to be wild horses. The Forest Service has acknowledged that most of these horses will be purchased by kill buyers and trucked to slaughter plants in Canada or Mexico. Photographs of the horses show hundreds of mares and foals, yearlings and adults crammed into pens at the stockyard.

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The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.

Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world. Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to over 300 wild horses and burros at its sanctuary in Santa Barbara, California and in Nevada where the group is planning to create a larger wild horse preserve.

The Cloud Foundation, Inc., a 501c(3) charity named for the wild stallion, Cloud, is dedicated to the preservation of wild horses and burros on public lands with special emphasis on isolated, genetically unique herds like Cloud’s in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.

Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. The group works to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands.

Laura Leigh is photojournalist and the founder of Wild Horse Education which is a Nevada non-profit organization devoted to gaining protection for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction.