Judge Allows Nevada Mustang Gather to Resume

A federal judge in Nevada has ruled that a roundup of mustangs from the Owyhee Herd Management Area (HMA) can resume, provided the animals are gathered in a humane way. The ruling reverses an earlier ruling by the same judge to halt the gather.

In November, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began gathering animals from the Owyhee Complex. Subsequently, Laura Leigh, president of the wild horse advocacy group Wild Horse Education, sought an injunction to halt the gather on grounds that gather was inhumane and put the animals at risk for injury or death. On Jan. 4, the BLM resumed that gather after observing a holiday season hiatus.

On Jan. 4, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du issued temporary restraining order mandating that the BLM "immediately cease and halt all wild horse gathers at the Owyhee Complex." The order also prohibited the BLM from transporting horses from the Owyhee HMA until the court had the opportunity to hear the matter.

On Jan. 10, after a hearing connected to the case, Du allowed the BLM to resume the gather on Jan. 11, under the conditions that the agency cannot use electric prod--so-called "hot shot"--treatment on weanlings during the gather process and can use the prod on adult animals only when necessary to ensure the safety of other horses and handlers. The judicial order further forbids the BLM from driving the animals through barbed wire fences during gather or transport, and the group must pace the roundup in such a way that foals can keep up with adult animals. Finally, the order requires that trap locations must be safe for the animals.

BLM Spokesman Tom Gorey had no comment on the case.

Atty. Gordon Cowan, who represented mustang welfare advocate Laura Leigh in the case, said that the ruling represents progress on wild horse welfare issues: "As an attorney I see a lot of work in order to ensure that treatment of America's wild horses becomes truly humane in practice, yet this order shows real promise that the conversation has truly begun."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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