It's Too Late to Stop Wild Horse Roundups in California

Categories: Animals
flickr/David Reese
Horse-lovers were disappointed this week when the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco rejected a motion for a restraining order and injunction to halt the roundup of over 2,000 wild horses and wild burros along the California-Nevada border. The court said that the motion was moot as the round-up has already happened.

San Francisco-based In Defense of Animals and the Dreamcatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary have been battling the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) since 2009 to halt the roundup, which they claim violates the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

"The Act was supposed to protect wild horses and burros from harassment from human beings," says Eric Kleiman, research director for In Defense of Animals, "In the law, the formula for "excess" horses does not mean mere overpopulation. It's a two part thing -- overpopulation, plus if those horses are interfering with a natural ecological balance."

Kleiman says that even if the wild horse population was determined to be in excess, the BLM is not properly removing the horses by euthanizing the old, sick, and lame horses before rounding up the rest -- as is required by law. "They are rounding them all up at once through helicopter stampedes, and if you get an old, sick, or lame horse being stampeded, that's cruelty."

flickr/Elaine Vigneault
The wild horses that are rounded up then get taken to short and long-term holding facilities, and some are adopted. "Of course in this economy, even domestic horses are having a hard time," says Barbara Clarke, Dreamcatcher Sanctuary board member. As of six years ago, the government also made it legal for the BLM to sell any horse over 10 years of age. "They can sell the horse to anybody, and once that horse is sold, who knows what happens," says Clarke. "We know a lot go to slaughter."

The BLM, meanwhile, contends that the roundup is necessary in order to keep populations in check. On the BLM website, Director Bob Abbey writes, "Wild horse and burro herds, which have virtually no natural predators, grow at a rate of about 20 percent a year, which means herds can double in size every four years. The BLM must remove thousands of wild horses and burros from the range each year to protect the public rangelands from the environmental impacts of herd overpopulation."

On Monday, two out of the three Ninth Circuit judges voted to dismiss the horse advocates' motion, but acknowledged that "the plaintiffs' motion raises serious legal questions concerning whether the large-scale removal of horses conflicts with the Wild Horses Act and whether an Environmental Impact Statement is required before any action can be implemented." Nonetheless, they concluded, "The roundup has taken place. This appeal, therefore, is moot."

But the dissenting Judge Rawlinson wasn't buying that, saying even though the roundup had occurred, effective relief could be provided so long as the horses could be returned to their native habitat.

"The horses that were rounded up are currently being kept in various holding areas," he observes, "As easily as the horses were transported out of their natural habitat, they can be returned."

While the motion has been shot down by the Ninth Circuit, the horse advocates have another shot at getting the wild horses back home. A separate case is being seen in the Eastern District Court of California, where Judge England shocked the BLM last April when he refused to dismiss the case on grounds of mootness, having similar reasoning to Judge Rawlinson.

"This is the first time that people have gotten the right to sue on behalf of the horses," says Clarke. "We still get our day in court. It's not over til it's over."

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The BLM is chasing wild horses in the hot Nevada summer heat,,they are running them so hard, the very young foals cannot keep up with their mothers and are run to exhaustion,, so far 8  foals have been killed. This is beyond inhumane. There are more humane ways to manage the wild horse population. Your tax dollars at work. See:

Christine Peniaranda
Christine Peniaranda

reading this sadness is enough, i can't watch because i love the horses so much. all i can do is sign petitions, write letters, recruit friends to do the same. get mad, get sad. i don't know what else to do 0h, the most important thing; Pray to our Almighty God to stop the cruelty against all our animals.

Christine Peniaranda
Christine Peniaranda

oh my goodness! doesn't the judges even know the cruelty blm commits against these animals? it's on video!!!  they are contributing to this cruelty by not stopping the roundups!  each horse has access to over a thousand acres!! they thrive on their own. the cattle interest want them wiped out! please everyone educate yourself on this matter and save these horses before they're extinct. please preserve them. stop illegal slaughter of our icons of freedom in mexico and canada.  these horses helped build this great country!!! please stop blm decimation of these sentinent beings.

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