The U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada issued a Temporary Restraining Order late yesterday to block the transport and slaughter of a privately-owned horse named “Lady” who was rounded up by the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe on private land on January 4-5 in Palomino Valley, a rural community northeast of Reno.
As a practical matter, this means the shipment of all of the estimated 400 horses captured at that time must be halted until Colleen Westlake, Lady’s owner, has a chance to inspect the horses and recover her horse.
The TRO was issued in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the American Wild Horse Campaign and Ms. Westlake by Jessica K. Peterson of the Flangas Dalacas Law Group in Las Vegas. It charged that the roundup of horses conducted by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe on private lands in Palomino Valley, a rural community north east of Reno, was illegal, involving trespass, taking of privately owned horses, and violations of state law.
The approximately 400 horses captured were sold by the tribe to a killbuyer named Dennis Chavez who operates a feedlot in Las Lunas, Nevada, who sells horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
In response to the lawsuit, Judge Miranda M. Du found:
“Plaintiffs have shown serious questions...that Lady was rounded up without adequate due process. Due process requires notice and opportunity to be heard before property is taken, and Plaintiffs allege that no notice was given that Lady would be taken.
Plaintiffs have demonstrated an immediate threat of irreparable harm if the status quo is not maintained, that is, Lady’s potential slaughter. The public interest is served when the Court maintains the status quo to ensure Lady is not unlawfully taken and slaughtered.
This order will issue without notice because time is of the essence—Defendants plan to slaughter or take to slaughter Plaintiff’s horse Lady in the immediate future.”
“The U.S. District Court in Reno has stepped in to do what the Nevada Department of Agriculture refused to do: act to prevent privately owned horses from being stolen, illegally transported and slaughtered,” said Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign.
“We are grateful for this federal court decision, but remain deeply troubled by the fact that the Nevada Department of Agriculture did not take steps to protect Nevada horse owners and to stop this unlawful operation that has sentenced hundreds of horses to horrific deaths at slaughterhouses in Mexico.”
It is believed that the horses are currently at a feedlot in New Mexico, and AWHC has notified Border Patrol, the New Mexico Livestock Board and the Sheriff in the county where the horses are believed to be held of the federal court order blocking the transport and slaughter of the horses.
Lady was one of several privately owned horses and burros caught in the capture operation. Although some of the missing horses and burros were released, Lady remains missing and is feared to already be on her way to slaughter.
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.
Press release provided by Brieanah Schwartz, American Wild Horse Campaign