Emily Ashcraft, Law Street
April 21, 2021
On Tuesday, the American Wild Horse Campaign and defendants Debra Haaland, Secretary of the Interior, and Nada Wolff Culver with The United States Bureau of Land Management (Bureau) filed a joint motion asking the District of Columbia District Court to stay a lawsuit regarding the Bureau’s horse sterilization plans in the Confusion Herd Management Area.
The initial complaint which was filed in December 2020 by American Wild Horse Campaign and wildlife photographer Robbert Hammer asked the court for injunctive relief halting the defendants’ efforts to permanently sterilize wild horses through a purportedly inhumane and outdated method, ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves using a chain to sterilize mares. Additionally, the complaint alleged that the government agencies did not give opportunity for public input in its decision and violated various national laws.
If approved by the court, the requested stay will last through June 21, 2021, in an effort to give the Bureau time to finalize its new plans for horse sterilization, which will reportedly not include ovariectomy via colpotomy. A previous motion from the parties granted a two week extension of deadlines to allow officials in the new administration to evaluate the approach, which extended deadlines in the lawsuit until April 21.
According to Tuesday’s motion, the Bureau currently “has no intention to surgically sterilize wild mares using ‘ovariectomy via colpotomy,’” as was explained in the October 2020 Bureau decision. The present request for a stay would give time for the Bureau to “formalize that position.”
The motion explained that if the Bureau does decide to implement that process for sterilization in its new plan to address the Confusion Herd Management Area, the plaintiffs would still have the ability to pursue the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are represented by Eubanks & Associates PLLC. The defendants are represented by the Department of Justice.