Federal Judge Declines to Prevent Nevada BLM Mustang Gathers

A U.S. District Court Judge has denied wild horse advocates' request to halt Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse gathers in Nevada on grounds that the court cannot rule on BLM round-up conduct that has yet taken place.

In August wild horse advocate Laura Leigh, vice president of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, filed a complaint and a companion Temporary Restraining Order asking the U.S. District Court Nevada District to stop the gather of mustangs from the Triple B and other Nevada herd areas on grounds that animals are treated inhumanely during and immediately after round-ups. U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben declined to prevent the BLM from completing the gather, but issued a temporary restraining order banning any mistreatment of mustangs during BLM gathers.

In September, Leigh filed an amended complaint asking the court to order specific humane treatment of BLM mustangs during and after gathers on grounds that BLM round-up conduct observed at the Trible B gather was likely to occur during other round-ups.

Meanwhile, BLM Director Bob Abbey announced that a team composed of agency personnel would review existing agency procedures used at the Triple B gather. In December, the agency released the panel's findings along with 11 recommendations to improve BLM horse handling during gathers.

During a Jan. 26, hearing McKibben said that the court did not have the jurisdiction or supporting case law to be the "overseer" of the BLM overall, and that the court would not "police all gathers in the U.S. or even gathers in the district of northern Nevada." However, McKibben said that wild horse advocates could continue to pursue round-up conduct cases on a gather-by-gather basis.

BLM Spokesman Tom Gorey declined detailed comment about McKibben's decision.

"The decision speaks for itself," Gorey said.

Leigh said she was encouraged that McKibben acknowledged wild horse welfare issues represented in the case, and promised to pursue future wild horse welfare cases when warranted.

"We'll do it on a round-up-by-round-up basis until a written wild horse humane care protocol is in place," Leigh said.

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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