Wild Horse Advocates Advance Inhumane Treatment Case Against BLM in Federal Court…
November 21, 2012: Today a federal court advanced the ongoing case against inhumane conduct by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The judge set a deadline requiring the BLM to provide plaintiff Laura Leigh, president of Wild Horse Education (WHE), a complete record of BLM’s activities and documents in question. The court also set aside a tentative date to conduct a settlement conference. In the usual course that gives the BLM the upper hand when filing the final brief that could decide the case without a trial, the court acknowledged the unfairness of the process and instead, required the BLM to file its briefs at the same time as the plaintiff.
In 1971 the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRH&B Act) was passed to protect wild horses and burros from private land owners who brutally rounded them up and sold them to slaughter in a practice called “Mustanging.”
In the past forty years BLM, the agency tasked with managing these protected American heritage animals, has failed to implement any humane treatment standard for their care and handling. Horrific images of BLM’s actions toward these animals continues to outrage the public, but BLM persists in inappropriate treatment and inadequate protection and management of these animals.
This ongoing crisis is what forced the nonprofit, Wild Horse Education (WHE), to file against BLM in Federal court. WHE gained a restraining order against BLM for conduct –the first ever in the history of Act. Federal Judge, Hon. Howard J. McKibben, called BLM’s stated justification for their treatment of the horses “a blame-the-horse affront.” BLM’s own review team, set up to answer allegations in the Triple B roundup, found that, “horses were observed being struck in the face, and often confused due to aggressive loading procedures and excessive pressure by multiple handlers. Several videos reveal that a few horses were repeatedly shocked with an electrical animal prod, sometimes in the face, and in one case, the use of this electrical prod led to a horse becoming stuck in a panel at the loading site. Some videos reveal horses being struck in more than one instance with the trailer gate to induce loading, and in one instance a horse appears to have been kicked in the head by a Sun J employee (BLM contractor). In one video it appears that a horse was dragged into a trailer by a rope around its neck.”
Laura Leigh, President of WHE, observed an incident where a single wild horse was pursued and apparently struck intentionally by the helicopter skids.
To date, WHE has won two restraining orders and an injunction against BLM for their conduct toward wild horses in this ongoing courtroom saga since August of 2011.
In spite of BLM’s continued reassurance that the agency is addressing these issues, and creating an enforceable policy, this type of conduct continues in practice. Leigh has documented current conduct (when her access is not overly restricted) that demonstrates no change on the range during operations.
“We will not stop our effort on these cases until a reasonable standard of humane handling and penalties for violations are outlined” stated Leigh “It is well past time that our wild horses and burros are protected from abuse as was the original intention of Congress in 1971.”
These cases, investigations and supporting documentation, are supported solely by Wild Horse Education, a registered Nevada non-profit. http://wildhorseeducation.org
Links of interest:
Video of horse hit with helicopter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObXB0Wq3nRE
History of the legal battle for humane care: http://wildhorseeducation.org/the-humane-care-suit/short-history-of-the-humane-care-suit/