Throwback Thursday (the fight for humane care continues)

Sometimes a “throwback” post is a good reminder of the steps taken to get where we are today and give clarity to the steps ahead.

We are getting a lot of questions in our inbox about the work to stop abuse!

The path has been a long and arduous one… and the work continues. We hope this look back on the anniversary of one of the legal victories answers some of your questions. 

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In January of 2013 Wild Horse Education (WHE) filed against abuse at the Owyhee roundup and a Injunction was granted, stopping the operation.  After the hearing WHE gained another court order against abuse at an ongoing roundup.

When we went to court in 2010-2012 and shut down roundups due to abusive practices, the agency had no real defense in court. By 2013 they had a policy that they called a Comprehensive Animal Welfare Plan or CAWP.

In 2013 they tried to use that assertion as a shield against allegations. The judge found the conduct unacceptable. She allowed the operation to continue (BLM was claiming they were under financial hardship and had to ship horses they had already captured). However, she created very specific language of her own that the agency must comply with. and allowed our case (that contained arguments concerning the deficits in the agencies removal plan) to continue.

24 months later, a more formalized CAWP document (that was now considered a policy) was inserted into all assessments and contracts having to do with removals. There was a lot of work from the date of that court order to the formalization of that policy, but policy changed that benefited the horse. The first one since the 1971 Act had passed. Our other ongoing cases brought about changes to the access policy (daily access to observe roundups of public horses on public lands, also became a reality).

The Owyhee case was still active and led to an understanding that there were deficits, confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences, later that year. We began to attempt to work to create planning that would address those deficits, without long term litigation, through our court ordered negotiation process. Changes in leadership since 2016 saw much of that dragged backwards. Yet, the framework exists and our work continues.

Our work has many facets. Wild horses are a public lands issue, not a domestic animal discussion. Even our fight against abuse is done using the processes defined by the law books on public lands. Advocacy for the wild horse begins by protecting the resources they need to survive in the wild.  All living things on our public lands, from sage grouse to wild horses, must have a wild place to occupy where they are free from the disastrous consequence of exploitation for profit. Sage grouse are still in decline after millions have been spent, and years wasted, creating plans to protect the bird that prioritize industry. Just like the grouse, our wild horses are feeling the same squeeze.

When it comes to a roundup WHE has one focus, fighting against abuse and creating safer conditions. To date, WHE is still the only organization to ever take the agency to task over abuse.  Our work continues.

WHE has the largest (and longest running) data base on wild horse roundups. As we did when the first policy was being formalized, we have crafted a document that recommends changes based on the metrics of the trend data we have accumulated.

Our request for rule changes on CAWP heads out early next week. 

The anniversary of that court ruling is a fitting day to be completing the edits on our request for changes to the policy.

Step-by-step the push to stop abuse has been key to our mission since the day BLM ran the hooves off a foal, literally, that led to the founding of this organization. (one of the very first articles done by WHE, Hope)

A throwback in time, posted January 2013:

(Reno, NV) Shortly after a hearing ended in a case brought by Wild Horse Education’s founder Laura Leigh the Honorable Judge Miranda Du issued a restraining order to conduct at the Owyhee Complex wild horse roundup.

The order cites the courts expectations for humane care at BLM operations. A hearing for Injunctive Relief will give parties an opportunity to address issues at the roundup in more depth. The date for the hearing has not been set,

“I am in tears. Three years of running this grueling marathon from range to courtroom to gain an honest conversation about the inhumane handling of an American treasure now has the very first, specific language (beyond helicopters hitting and coming too close gained in earlier rulings), toward actually gaining the first humane care standard in the history of the Act.” said Laura Leigh, “I am literally in tears.”



The Order below:


The Injunction issued by this Court on January 4, 2013, IS HEREBY LIFTED, in accordance with the following terms:

1. Defendant may conduct the planned wild horse gather and transport at the Owyhee HMA.

2. Defendant must conduct the gather and transport in a humane fashion

3. Defendant cannot use “hot shot”/electric prod treatment on the 14 weanlings it plans to transport.

4. Defendant cannot routinely use “hot shot”/electric prod treatment during the planned gather and transport of the adult horses. Defendant may only use such treatment as necessary to ensure the safety and security of the horses and handlers.

5. Defendant cannot conduct the gather or transport in a manner where the horses are driven through barbed wire fences.

6. Defendant must conduct the gather and transport in a manner ensuring that all foals are able to keep up with the drive, and none are left behind from the herd.

7. To the extent Defendant uses such methods, Defendant cannot conduct the gather or transport in a manner where the horses are treated with rushed and aggressive loading tactics from the trap sites into the trucks.

8. To the extent Defendant uses such methods, Defendant cannot conduct the gather or transport in a manner where the horses are rounded up from unsafe trap locations.



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

Help us stay in the fight.

Categories: Legal, Roundups

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