Reno, NV (January 16, 2018)... The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) and Colleen Westlake, a private citizen, filed suit this morning in U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada against the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and the Nevada Department of Agriculture seeking a Preliminary Injunction to stop the transport of Westlake’s privately owned horse “Lady” to slaughter and to prevent the roundup of additional wild horses for slaughter in violation of state law. The Flangas Dalacas Law Group of Las Vegas and Reno is representing AWHC and Ms. Westlake.
“We respect the sovereignty of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for activities that occur on their nation’s lands. However, the roundup of the Palomino Valley horses occurred on private lands outside the reservation, involving trespass, taking of private horses and violations of state law,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. “We are bringing this suit on behalf of the residents whose property rights have been violated and the wild horses who have lived peacefully in Palomino Valley for years.”
On January 4-5, members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and contractors with Cattoor Wild Horse Roundups conducted a surprise roundup of “feral” horses in Palomino Valley, a rural community northeast of Reno. Men on motorcycles, ATV’s and horseback trespassed across private lands throughout the valley over the objections of landowners, chasing horses into traps. The horses were then loaded onto trailers and driven onto the reservation where they were sold to a kill buyer for transport to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.
Legally, the Palomino Valley horses are classified as “feral livestock,” which is defined as “any formerly domesticated livestock or progeny of domesticated livestock which have become wild and are running at large upon public or private lands in the State of Nevada, and which have no physical signs of domestication.” (NRS 569.008) Under state law, any person who intends to gather feral livestock must provide adequate public notice and provide a mechanism for recovery of any privately owned animals that are captured in the gather. No such notice was given, thus Palomino Valley property owners were deprived of the protections provided under state law.
Lady was one of approximately 400 horses removed from the valley and one of several privately owned horses and burros caught up in the capture operation. Although some of the missing horses and burros were released, Lady remains missing and is feared to be on her way to slaughter.
“If Lady is still being held, and I was able to go to the corral, I know I could identify her. However, no one will tell me where she could be, or will let me try to identify her. I just want permission to go and see if my horse is being held with those that have been rounded up since January 4th. I just want my horse back,” said Westlake. “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.”
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.