Complaint filed alleging Inhumane Conduct at the Owyhee Complex Roundup

Day 3 Owyhee 2012

Day 3 Owyhee 2012


BLM’s wild horse program faces new allegations of inhumane treatment in Federal Court

(Reno, NV) Today a lawsuit was filed in Reno Federal District Court against conduct at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse roundup operation in northern Nevada. The case was filed by Reno attorney Gordon Cowan for Plaintiff Laura Leigh, founder of Wild Horse Education (WHE), and addresses a ten year removal plan in the Owyhee Complex.

Leigh witnessed the majority of operation days during the first phase of the plan. In court documents Leigh states that inappropriate conduct was observed repeatedly including: routine use of electric cattle prods, wild horses driven through barbed wire, operations in sub-freezing temperatures. In one instance wild horses were documented being driven into a barbed wire fence and four animals became entangled, two literally crashing onto their heads.O2_28_002

In the past forty years BLM, the agency tasked with managing these protected American heritage animals on federal land, has failed to implement any humane treatment standard for animal care and handling.

“I have tried everything I can think of to have a reasonable conversation about addressing these serious issues and the requests are ignored or dismissed,” stated Leigh “It is literal agony watching what I can only classify as a callous disregard for basic welfare go ignored. I felt there was no option but to file further litigation as I have every expectation the conduct will continue at Owyhee for the next decade.”

Over the course of the last two years BLM has been making claims that a policy will be in place or creating operation “memorandums” that are ignored in practice. After a Federal Restraining Order was issued, when a pilot apparently hit a horse with the helicopter skids in August of 2011, BLM did an internal revue that revealed a host of inappropriate conduct. The state of Nevada then issued a memorandum of expectation for conduct. The BLM National office has been promising the public a policy, and giving deadlines for implementation that come and go with no forthcoming policy. Witnesses continue to see no change in handling of wild horses by the agency.

“It is beyond comprehension that our government would continue behavior like this with a symbol of American freedom,” states media spokesperson for WHE Marta Williams, “we will continue to address the outrageous conduct in any way we can until there is an enforceable standard for humane treatment for America’s wild horses and burros.”


These cases, investigations and supporting documentation, are supported solely by Wild Horse Education, a registered Nevada non-profit.

Links of interest:

History of the legal battle for humane care: