Federal Lawsuit Seeks Return of 1800 Horses to Western Range

Wild Horse Lawsuit Secured Reprieve For Calico Horses, Now Plaintiffs Move To Rescue Horses From Lifelong, Zoo – Like Holding

Washington, DC – In a final brief filed today, wild horse advocates are asking a federal court to order the government to return to the Nevada range approximately 1800 wild horses who, after being rounded up earlier this year, await their fate at government holding pens located approximately 200 miles from their home range in Nevada’s Calico Mountain Complex. The international law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, on behalf of plaintiffs In Defense of Animals (IDA), ecologist Craig Downer and author Terri Farley, highlighted the Honorable Judge Paul L. Friedman’s preliminary analysis that long-term holding of wild horses in the Midwest is likely illegal when asking for the court to order defendants Department of Interior (DOI) and Secretary Ken Salazar to find room for the captured Calico horses on the more than 30 million acres of public lands designated as wild horse herd areas.

Early in the case, Plaintiffs secured a reprieve for the captured horses ensuring that no horses would be moved to long-term holding and that no stallions would be gelded (castrated) until Judge Friedman issued a final ruling. This ensures that the horses remain in suitable condition to be reintroduced to the wild.

“It’s time for Interior Secretary Salazar to acknowledge that warehousing wild horses in Midwestern holding facilities is illegal and that new approaches to wild horse management are urgently needed,” said William J. Spriggs, lead counsel on the pending wild horse lawsuit filed pro bono by Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney. “The place to start is with the return of the Calico horses to the wild Nevada rangelands where they belong. Next, the Interior Department must shift its resources toward minimally feasible on-the-range management of our wild horses, as Congress intended when it passed the 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act.

To date at least 79 horses have died as a result of the Calico roundup and more than 40 heavily pregnant mares have spontaneously aborted. In addition, an unknown number of Calico horses at the holding pens have been reported to have “Pigeon Fever,” a highly contagious bacteria-based disease which is known to be spread by flies. The bacteria lives and multiplies in dry soil and manure.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for April 24.  A final ruling in the case is expected in late May.

The Calico Mountain Complex roundup of 1,922 wild horses is one of the largest roundups in recent years. The BLM removed at least 80-90 percent of the Calico wild horse population, leaving behind an “estimated” 600 horses on the 550,000 acre (or 859 square mile) Complex in northwest Nevada. The roundup ended on February 4, 2010, 500 horses short of its target for removal.  Theroundup proceeded despite a ruling by federal court Judge Paul Friedman — in the lawsuit brought by Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney — questioning the legality of the BLM’s long-term holding facilities and suggesting that the BLM postpone the Calico roundup.
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 256 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 plans to remove nearly 12,000 wild horses and burros from public lands by October 2010.  There are currently more than 36,000 wild horses warehoused in government holding facilities and only 33,000 wild horses free on the range.


March 31, 2010

Contact: William Spriggs, Esq., (202) 452-6051
Eric Kleiman, (717) 939-3231

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. _________________________________________________________________________________

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS • 3010 KERNER BLVD. • SAN RAFAEL, CA 94901 • 415-448-0048

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