Judge bars slaughter of Nev. mare in tribal roundup

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Scott Sonner, Associated Press

January 21, 2019

A federal judge has granted a northern Nevada woman's request for a court order to protect her horse after she says it was stolen during a tribal roundup and fears it could be headed for the slaughterhouse.

U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du issued a temporary restraining order in Reno on Thursday forbidding the slaughter of the horse named "Lady" owned by Colleen Westlake of neighboring Sparks.

Westlake and the American Wild Horse Campaign filed a lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Agriculture, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Tribe and others on Wednesday seeking to protect Lady and other horses gathered during a roundup Jan. 4 in the Palomino Valley area north of Reno and south of Pyramid Lake.

Du's order only directly affects Westlake's horse. She said she'll address any others at a hearing Jan. 28.

The judge said the tribe and employees of a local contractor gathered horses in Palomino Valley on motorcycles, ATVS and horseback on Jan. 4 and 5. She said Westlake presented evidence she purchased Lady from the Nevada Department of Agriculture last July.

"I just want my horse back," Westlake said in declaration attached to the lawsuit that Lady was stolen from her friend's private property.

The Palomino Valley about 20 miles north of Reno is home to a large holding facility where the Bureau of Land Management often keeps hundreds of horses gathered during roundups on federal rangelands. But the horses in question here are not federally protected because they don't live within U.S.-designated herd management areas.

In Nevada, free-roaming horses outside those areas are considered feral horses under the state's jurisdiction. But they don't include horses that originate on recognized tribal lands and generally are considered the property of the tribe.

Nevada Agriculture Department officials told Westlake they have inspected all the horses gathered by the tribe and are investigating the incident.

Alan Mandell, vice chairman of the tribe, said the roundup was part of a management plan intended to protect natural resources on its tribal lands.

"We weren't stealing anything, we were just recovering property," Tribal Councilman John Guerrero told the Reno Gazette-Journal.