Judge lifts injunction, allows sale of horses at Fallon auction

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Judge lifts injunction, allows sale of horses at Fallon auction

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A federal judge in Reno has lifted the emergency restraining order she placed on the sale of more than 100 unbranded horses currently being held at a Fallon auction site. But advocates say the horses are federally protected.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign argued the U.S. Forest Service orchestrated the roundup by allowing the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe to gather wild horses, which migrated over from nearby federal lands.

Denize Bolbol is with the advocacy group.

"Wild horses are not truly protected, unless the agencies choose to do so. Otherwise, they can just start deeming them someone else's horses, like tribal horses, and those horses are subject to slaughter."

The service had initially planned to do the roundup, but withdrew amidst pressure and let the tribe gather the horses themselves. The judge lifted the injunction because the roundup occurred on tribal land and without any action from the U.S. Forest Service. The service did not immediately return KUNR's phone calls, although their lawyer argued in court the horses were the property of the tribe's.

Advocates say they recognize the horses from their observation of federal lands, while the state brand inspector says the horses showed characteristics of domestic horses.

Laura Leigh, who is the other plaintiff for the advocates, says the horses were shifted between the service and the Bureau of Land Management, without anyone taking a direct action.

"So who do you hold accountable under law, and that was the challenge today. And we'll be back next time."

A representative of the tribe has said the horses belonged to them and had become a nuisance on their land.

In a related case earlier Wednesday, the judge indicated that she's unlikely to grant a blanket prohibition on any roundups from a big herd near the Oregon line because government land managers insist they don't intend to gather any more mustangs there for at least two years.

The judge said she would consider during a regular court schedule in the months ahead the claims that such roundups are illegal because the agency has failed to provide the necessary documentation that the federal rangeland in question is overpopulated with mustangs.