By Suzanne Roy
Associated Press Photo.
On Tuesday, August 6, 2013, AWHPC learned that the U.S. Forest Service, a division of the USDA, was planning to use our tax dollars to round up wild horses from the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone Reservation and surrounding public lands in Northern Nevada and transport them to a livestock auction frequented by kill buyers. The Forest Service entered into a backroom deal to conduct this stealth roundup and deliver wild horses to a slaughter auction, despite the fact that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the Obama Administration are opposed to horse slaughter!
After we exposed this arrangement for what it was – a backroom deal to launder wild horses through a tribe to send them to a slaughter auction -- the Forest Service pulled out. But the roundup took place anyway, allegedly by the tribe without federal involvement, although a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) official has acknowledged that she was onsite at the reservation advising tribal wranglers where to find horses on both reservation and BLM lands!
Between August 10 and August 13, approximately 470 horses – nearly 40% of whom were unbranded – were captured and delivered to the Fallon Livestock Exchange, where they were scheduled to be put up for sale to the highest bidder on August 17. The number of horses captured was far fewer than the 700-1,000 the FS and tribe were aiming to capture with federal assistance.
Unbranded Ft. McDermitt horses pulled from sale at Fallon Livestock Exchange on Aug. 17, 2013.
On Thursday, August 15, 2013, AWHPC filed a lawsuit to block the sale of unbranded horses, because we believe that these horses are federally-protected wild horses who wandered onto public lands surrounding the reservation from the adjacent BLM Little Owhyee Herd Management Area.
Late Friday night, August 16, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) barring the sale of unbranded horses at the auction.
On August 17, 2013, the Churchill County Sheriff's Department served the order on the Fallon Livestock Exchange. After a good deal of discussion, representatives from AWHPC and Wild Horse Education were allowed to inspect every pen at the auction and ensured that 149 unbranded horses were pulled from the sale. Sadly, the auction went on with the branded horses; approximately 169 of the 320 horses sold that day were purchased by kill buyers. Some were bought back by rescue groups after the sale.
On Wednesday, August 21. Judge Du lifted the restraining order, allowing the Paiute Shoshone Tribe to proceed with the sale of the unbranded horses. What followed was an extraordinary rescue effort that has saved all of the unbranded horses.
Some of the rescued, unbranded horses.
For more information, please see the links provided below.