Thursday, February 09, 2012

Nevada judge lets wild-horse roundups proceed; appeals court says another erred in barring photographer from earlier roundup

Even though the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has said it plans to reduce wild-horse roundups, a federal judge in Nevada has denied advocates' request to block roundups in the West, reports Scott Sonner of The Associated Press. Texas-based Free Wild Horse Federation said they feared horses were being abused, but Judge Howard McKibben said the group would have to take their concerns to Congress "if they think the animals ... need more protection."

McKibben granted a temporary restraining order last year that cut short a roundup near the Nevada-Utah border after a helicopter flew too close a horse in violation of the law. However, the BLM has made positive changes since then, he said, and he can't issue injunctions based on speculation about future abuse. "This court is not going to police all gathers in the U.S. or even all gathers in the district of northern Nevada," he said.

A lawyer for the group said the judge was its "last vestige of hope" because there is no other accountability. The BLM said in a formal review made public in December that horses in Triple B, a horse round-up facility, were whipped in the face, kicked in the head, dragged by rope around the neck and repeatedly shocked with electrical prods. But, the agency concluded none of the treatment was inhumane. (Read more)

UPDATE, Feb. 14: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that District Judge Larry Hicks did not properly weigh the First Amendment implications when he barred photojournalist Laura Leigh of Horseback magazine from covering the roundup. "A court cannot rubber-stamp an access restriction simply because the government says it is necessary," two judges on the three-judge panel wrote, directing Hicks to reconsider the issues. For details from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, click here.

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