Wild Horse Advocates Make a Last Stand For America’s War Horse
(Reno, NV) Final briefs were filed in Reno Federal Court yesterday to gain transparency of action and protections from slaughter for the last of the Sheldon mustangs. The hardy horses that have resided in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge for more than a century are being permanently exterminated from the range and left vulnerable to slaughter. Horses from Sheldon served the US cavalry up until World War II.
The Refuge accelerated plans to completely removed the entire population of about 830 horses over the next five years to a plan intended to eliminate the herd in two years. This year a decision was announced shortly before the removal to increase the number to 415 removed this year. Sheldon NWR plans to send 252 horses to J&S Associates that has failed to account for all the horses they have taken in the last three years, with some admittedly ending up at auction. The cost of the contract with J&S this year will exceed $290,000. paid to the contractor.
In a Declaration prepared for the court co-Plaintiff Bonnie Kohleriter writes: “I think John Kasbohm (Director of Sheldon) should hold J&S Associates accountable and should deny them another contract. I think John Kasbohm should also be held accountable for his failure to follow the environmental assessment and record of decision of 2008 for 2010, 2011, and 2012; and I think John Kasbohm should be held accountable for making up his own rules about J&S’s performance, and about attempting to cover up for them so that he can use them again to get himself out of his dilemma (on where to send the increased number of horses removed).”
In documents presented to the court Sheldon NWR included a letter that had 39 organizations, including Safari Club International and Defenders of Wildlife, supporting the aggressive removal of horses from Sheldon. This document was presented as “evidence” that the Refuge plan is one supported by the public. The letter is dated September 9th, the first day of the roundup, and claims that Sheldon “goes above and beyond what is required in the CCP to ensure the humane and ethical treatment of horses.”
“I attended the roundup at Sheldon and not one representative was present from the organizations on the list Sheldon submitted to the court,” stated co-Plaintiff Laura Leigh, journalist and founder of Wild Horse Education, “and to my knowledge none of the organizations did any investigation at all independently. Sheldon’s own investigation into this situation actually proves the many of allegations were true. It seems an absurdity that Sheldon can claim in any way that they are transparent and ‘doing all they can’ to ensure safe placement of these horses.”
Sheldon also used screengrabs of social media postings by Leigh to claim they were transparent. Their own screengrabs include Leigh’s description of the digital enhancement used to create the images and that no amount of enhancement could determine any true assessment of horses.
In 2006, the last time images of meaningful access to roundups at Sheldon were made public, horrific scenes of abuse were documented. Photographs of horses being trampled and foals left to die hog-tied in the desert were the very last images the public has ever seen of “up close and personal” actions at the Refuge.
In doing research for this case several advocates sent information to Plaintiffs. In evidence is a document that may very well indicate that the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, although not intended to mandate management on the range on all public land, may very well have intended that all horses on public land be protected from slaughter.
In the Congressional Record (the “Record”) which preserves the supporting Congressional intent underlying the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, the Record states that the Wild Horse Act is meant to prevent horses from, “indiscriminate slaughter, harm, or conversion into commercial products when found on game ranges or refuges….”
“This is a pretty exciting find,” stated Leigh “The premise that these horses were NOT forgotten by those that created the Act makes sense. This challenge has never been made before and it will be very interesting to see where this leads. We are grateful that so many people are rolling up their sleeves and working to help all of our American horses and burros and that so many of us are beginning to truly unite.”
Arguments will be heard by Federal court Judge Miranda Du later this week.
WildHorseEducation.org is a Nevada non-profit devoted to gaining protection for wild horses and burros from abuse, slaughter and extinction.
Links of interest:
Wild Horse Education Website: http://wildhorseeducation.org