Wild horse lawsuit seeks transparency for treatment and condition of horses at roundups

Photo of wild horse roundup
Photo of wild horse roundup(Rick Bowmer | AP)
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 3:11 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - The lawsuit argues that the public has the right to see the government-run roundups that use helicopters to chase horses for miles, often in extreme conditions that have caused suffering and death.

The Cloud Foundation (TCF),  a nonprofit dedicated to protecting America’s wild horses and burros on public lands, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon against the U.S. Department of Interior seeking to address the lack of transparency in roundups that are conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

In the lawsuit, TCF is pushing for the use of non-obtrusive cameras at all aspects of the roundup including on helicopters, at trap sites, and temporary holding pens, so that the public can witness and understand the full operation that removes thousands of wild horses and burros from their home ranges every year.

The lawsuit’s objective is to amplify transparency in the government’s roundup activities, allowing the public to exercise their constitutional and statutory right to observe and comprehend how federally protected wild animals are managed.

In the fiscal year 2022, more than 21,000 wild horses and burros were rounded up. However, current practices by the BLM obstruct public observation, often relegating viewers to distant or obstructed vantage points, with access limited to the tail end of the roundup.

These roundups use helicopters to stampede wild horses and burros for untold miles, often in extreme conditions, but the public typically is only able to view the tail end of the roundups. Despite being highly controversial and of public concern, the roundups mainly take place out of view of the public.

Earlier this month, BLM roundups underscored the brutality of this program with horses suffering broken necks and legs in an effort to escape, and tiny foals were run to death.

The use of cameras was recommended in a report commissioned by BLM’s long-time roundup contractor, Cattoor Livestock Roundup, the report was prepared by Mark J. Deesing, Animal Behavior and Facilities Design consultant for Grandin Livestock Handling, states,

“Video monitoring of animal operations is a good way to ensure humane handling is taking place on a daily basis. Video cameras mounted in helicopters and in the capture and holding pens can also render the activists’ videos as simply nothing more than proof that your business ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to upholding animal welfare standards.”