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Two Legal Victories for Wild Horses!

Two Legal Victories for Wild Horses!

Federally protected wild horses and their advocates scored an important victory on September 29. The US District Court of Idaho ruled that the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to sterilize an entire wild horse herd was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of federal law. On behalf of the groups American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), Return to Freedom, the Cloud Foundation, and individual Virginia Hudson, the law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks challenged the BLM's decision to sterilize every mare and stallion in the Saylor Creek herd of wild horses, arguing the BLM had failed to consider authoritative scientific information showing that sterilization causes serious damage to wild horses' behavior and herd dynamics. Advocates proved that the BLM did not consider the cumulative impacts of its proposed action, present meaningful alternatives or adequately respond to public comments. The court also found that the BLM ignored scientific information from the National Academy of Sciences, a study that the agency itself had commissioned, and failed to consider how its decision conflicts with its lawful duties to maintain viable herds of wild horses and to preserve horses' free-roaming behaviors. The ruling is here.

Meanwhile, the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco upheld a decision favoring interveners con-sisting of the group AWHC, author Terri Farley, and photographer Mark Terrill against the Ne-vada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau. NACO had sued to make the BLM round up thousands more wild horses and burros in Nevada and sell them "without limitation," i.e. to slaughter. The Court found that NACO had no claim to seek "judicial over-sight and direction of virtually the entire federal wild horse and burro management program in Nevada."

Both victories speak volumes to our ongoing campaign to protect wild horses and burros from abuse and killing. The precedent-setting Idaho decision will help counter BLM initiatives to ster-ilize wild horses. In Defense of Animals and other advocates successfully blocked a related plan in Oregon in 2016. NACO's efforts to have wild equines sold "without limitation" mirror the House of Representatives' current 2018 budget bill condemning captive mustangs and burros to a back-door slaughter pipeline. Nick Lawton, who represented advocates in the Saylor case, noted that these cases show that "wild horse advocates and the courts will closely scrutinize the agency's decisions."

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