January 17, 2019
A horse named 'Lady,' thought to be ensnared during a roundup should be saved from slaughter, a federal judge in Reno ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du authorized a temporary restraining order that directed defendants in a lawsuit by wild horse advocates to refrain from slaughtering the horse, which belongs to Sparks resident Colleen Westlake.
"This order will issue without notice because time is of the essence – Defendants plan to slaughter or take to slaughter Plaintiff's horse Lady in the immediate future," Du wrote.
But Westlake fears it may be too late and Lady may have already been shipped off.
"Maybe this will make them give her to me," Westlake said. "I pray they have her somewhere ... I don't know."
Residents of Nevada’s Palomino Valley who lost horses and burros during a multi-day roundup coordinated by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe filed suit in federal court Wednesday to order the animals returned.
In their complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, residents say the roundup wrongly swept privately owned animals from private property.
Some of the animals, two burros, were turned loose when roundup workers learned they were privately owned. But the burros are now loose on the range.
Another animal, Lady, still hasn’t been returned to the woman who adopted her through the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Westlake fears Lady is being shipped off for slaughter.
“I just want my horse back,” Westlake wrote in a declaration filed with the complaint. “I love my horse, she means everything to me. No amount of money could replace Lady, and I would be devastated if she were slaughtered.”
In a separate declaration Thomas Baker, owner of the burros, said on consecutive days workers trespassed on his private property and, in one instance, used a helicopter to herd his animals away.
“My burros were herded along with the horses until another neighbor informed tribal members that those burros were owned by me and told them they had better let them go,” Baker wrote in his declaration. “They were cut loose and have been wandering around the valley since that time.”
The roundup began Jan. 4 and lasted several days. Officials from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, which owns land on the other side of the Pah Rah Range from Palomino Valley, said the roundup was part of a broader plan to restore the range on the tribe’s reservation which has been devastated by fire in recent years.
The tribe owns horses that roam freely on and off the reservation that officials say the range can no longer sustainably support.
While tribal officials declined comment on the lawsuit, they say the roundup was legal and necessary.
“We are just following through with this management plan to protect the natural resources,” Vice Chairman Alan Mandell said.
“We weren’t stealing anything, we were just recovering property, that’s all,” said Tribal Councilman John Gurrero.
But the lawsuit by Westlake and American Wild Horse Campaign claims otherwise.
The plaintiffs argue that workers from the tribe and Cattoor Livestock Roundup of Nephi, Utah, a private contractor, trespassed on private property took horses without proper authorization.
The lawsuit also identifies as defendants the Nevada Department of Agriculture, ag department officials Chris Miller and Doug Farris, and Zena Quillan of Churchill County, who the complaint says contracted to purchase the horses from roundup.
The suit seeks the return of the animals plus damages for the loss of Lady, which are “incapable of being measured,” and “general damages for pain and suffering for the loss of her beloved animal and the anxiety and worry it has caused; and damages for Nevada citizens for destruction of feral horse groups that have been on this property for years and upon which citizens enjoy viewing, studying and photographing these wild horses.”
In the lawsuit advocates say ownership of the horses was wrongly attributed to the tribe and that the animals were actually feral livestock.
As such, residents should have been notified in advance of the proposed roundup and had a chance to claim the horses.
The suit also alleges Farris, Miller and the Department of Agriculture failed in their duty to conduct a proper brand inspection of all the horses rounded up to verify ownership.
Sue Cattoor of Cattoor Wild Horse Roundups and officials from the Nevada Department of Agriculture declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The RGJ could not reach Quillan.