Sales Continue for California Wild Horses, Lawsuit Postponed Until Spring

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(February 5, 2019) The Modoc Forest Service has opened the Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals in Alturas, CA and is once again accepting sale and adoption applications for the wild horses removed during the roundup of the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in late last year.

According to Amanda McAdams, Forest Supervisor of the Modoc National Forest, of the 261 horses sent to the Double Devil Corrals about 160 horses are still available for adoption or sale. Most of the remaining horses are 10 years and older, with many of the mares in foal.

The adoption fee for all horses at the Double Devil Corrals is $125.  In December 2018, the Forest Service unexpectantly announced that it was reducing the fee to purchase horses 10 years and over from $25 to $1.  Although these horses would be sold “with limitations,” meaning that there are restrictions on selling them for slaughter, individuals are still allowed to buy up to 24 horses a day, making the horses vulnerable to being bought up by kill buyers.  Also troubling is that the Forest Service has no capacity to follow up on these horses once they leave the Double Devil Corrals, despite California law prohibiting the sale or export of horses for human consumption.

So far, Ms. McAdams stated, no individual has purchased more than five horses, except for screened trainers and equine rescues/sanctuaries.

To stop this unprecedented sales policy of federally-protected wild horses, AWHC, along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service, including a motion for Preliminary Injunction (PI) to prevent the government from selling horses without limitation on slaughter.. The hearing on our PI motion was scheduled for January 31, but the governmennt asked the court to delay it due to the government shutdown. As part of that request, the Forest Service agreed not to sell horses for slaughter until the judge ruled on our motion.  Now that the federal shutdown is over, the earliest that a hearing on our lawsuit will take place until spring. This means that until the judge rules on our Preliminary Injunction, the Forest Service cannot sell horses over 10 years old “without limitations,” (ie. placing no restrictions on sale for slaughter), and the captured horses must continue to be cared for. 

This is not the first time that AWHC has stood up for the historic Devil’s Garden wild horses in northeastern California.  In 2016, AWHC, Return to Freedom, and Carla Bower won a lawsuit against the Forest Service, stopping the agency from eliminating about 25,000 acres of federally-protected wild horse habitat from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in its 2013 management plan. 

The Forest Service has set an Appropriate Management Level of just 203-402 wild horses on the more than 250,000-acre Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory while allowing over 6,000 privately-owned cow/calf pairs and sheep to graze on The Modoc National Forest from spring through fall.  In 2018, 932 horses were removed in a month-long roundup by Cattoor Wild Horse Roundups; 653 horses 9 years and younger were sent to the Litchfield BLM Corrals and are still being processed for adoption.

Ms. McAdams noted that an aerial census of the horses on the Territory is planned in the next few months to determine if another roundup and removal is warranted later this year.  Given the strong support by the Modoc County Farm Bureau for continuing this irresponsible, inhumane, and expensive “management” of wild horses in order to maintain the extensive private grazing rights, there’s no doubt that the Forest Service will again pusue another roundup as large as last year’s, placing hundreds more federally protected wild horses in jeopardy of slaughter.