Courtroom Update: Sheldon

America's War Horse, free for one more year and then possibly slaughtered. An American Tragedy

America’s War Horse, free for one more year and then possibly slaughtered. An American Tragedy

FAST UPDATE: Today in Federal Court the Sheldon (USFWS) horse TRO was heard. The Judge has denied initial TRO, however she set a rapid schedule to amend the Motion on the APA issues (the issues surrounding the use of J&S and protections against slaughter for Sheldon horses) with briefs due on Monday. The Court also set an evidentiary hearing on issues surrounding First Amendment violations on October 10th.

Sheldon argued that there is “no proof” of any horses that J&S went to slaughter. That is simply not the truth and we will have another opportunity to show the Judge the evidence in a new brief. (And that even if they did we must show law was violated).

We will also will have another opportunity to show the historic significance and public interest. At this writing more than 84 wild horse organizations have signed a letter that will be presented with the brief on Monday.

In the interim Wild Horse Education has presented an alternative plan for disposition of the horses that Sheldon intends to ship to a contractor that failed to provide accurate records, animals remain unaccounted for, animals declined in health under their care and proof exists that horses went to auction.  Wild Horse Education proposed to take the horses. We have given Sheldon an alternative.

A proposed observation of horses in holding has still not occurred. Sheldon has not announced a date.

With a government shut down threatened we are unclear how this will effect the movement on issues surrounding these American Icons, our “war horses.”

We will update as soon as we have news.

Yes… AP published this article and people are seeing the worst of it. Read the article…. we have to work all weekend, briefs due Monday. We are not “over” yet. These are America’s war horses and we do not accept current plans of the Refuge.

Please leave comments on the local link for the article:

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The U.S. government can proceed with plans to sell more than 400 mustangs gathered at a national wildlife refuge to a private contractor that critics say has a history of reselling them for slaughter, a federal judge ruled Friday.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du refused to grant an emergency order blocking the sale because she said theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has tightened restrictions on the Mississippi contractor, which has been unable to account for the current whereabouts of more than half of the 262 horses it has purchased from the agency since 2010.

However, Du said she’ll give horse advocates another chance next week to prove why the horses from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge on the Nevada-Oregon line are of historical and cultural significance and deserve the same protection as those managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

She also set a hearing for Oct. 10 for advocates to argue why they think their First Amendment rights have been violated by restrictions the Fish and Wildlife Service has placed on public access to the holding facility where the animals have been stored since being rounded up earlier this month.

Du said advocates can file a new brief Monday, but she won’t in the meantime prevent the agency from moving forward with next week’s planned shipment of horses to contractors, including J&S Associates of Pelahatchie, Miss.

“The government can start that process,” Du said, adding that she believes agency officials have screened potential adopters and “have made reasonable efforts to prevent horses from going to slaughter.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a formal investigation of J&S Associates last year based on a complaint from one of the plaintiffs in the current case, California horse advocate Bonnie Kohleriter. But officials said the agency could not document any evidence horses were knowingly transferred to others for slaughter.

“There’s simply no evidence any horses have gone to slaughter,” Justice Department lawyerTravis Annatoyn told Du on Friday.

Gordon Cowan, a lawyer representing Kohleriter and Laura Leigh of the Nevada-based advocacy group Wild Horse Education, said the agency doesn’t know what happened to more than half of the animals.

“The bulk of them disappeared. The (government) would admit today they don’t know where they are,” Cowan said. “They have nothing in writing, horses are missing and they are about to repeat the process.”

The agency concluded that 112 of the 262 horses J&S received from 2010-12 were placed with “suitable and appropriate adopters.” But it acknowledged the disposition of 82 animals placed with one adopter was uncertain, with at least some of those horses being sold by the adopter.

J&S did not provide documentation for the disposition of 65 horses, but it appeared they were being held on pastures owned by two private individuals in Mississippi. Agency lawyers said J&S may not have kept records adequate to show the location of these horses.

The review concluded the original terms of the contract didn’t require horse adoption contractors to provide detailed disposition information, only a list of the adopters, they said. New rules require additional screening of prospective adopters and reporting of complete horse disposition data, including contact information for all adopters.

Stan Palmer of J&S Associates said Friday he thinks the new reporting requirements will discourage some people from adopting horses. He said he doesn’t believe any of the horses he has purchased ended up at slaughter houses.

“To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened,” he said. “There have been people who have taken horses with the expressed purpose of training them and selling them.”

Palmer noted that the contract did not call for any information on the people who got the horses from him and he provided only what was required to ensure the privacy of the purchasers.

“The advocacy groups have gotten so bad at harassing and haranguing these people. I was trying to avoid them having to go through that if it wasn’t necessary,” he said.


In other issues pretrial orders were filed today, as well as Motions filed earlier this week, in matters surrounding the Owyhee Complex. In that case it is basically the assertion of the BLM that even though there is an EA and Record of Decision they have the discretion to not adhere to it. It appears that the involvement of the public is limited to the comment period and what appears to be a “policy” outlined in a Final EA, that BLM is not bound to it. They also assert that they are not bound to use data, collect data, or in any other way support a decision except to say “we can.” More on that case later.


Triple B/Jackson and the Ninth Circuit First Amendment case are both waiting for the court to schedule Discovery (TB/J) and a hearing (FA).


At this juncture we are awaiting the finalization of BLM’s fall/winter roundup schedule to see “what comes next.” We don’t know what will occur next until the BLM creates that Final Decision.


Please support the work if you can. We are committed to protecting our wild horses from abuse, slaughter and extinction.