U.S. District Judge James Donato on Thursday granted the U.S. Forest’s Service request for a stay of proceedings in lawsuits filed by Return to Freedom and other advocates to stop the unrestricted sale of wild horses captured last fall at the Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory.
The Forest Service made the request because of the partial federal government shutdown. The agency has agreed that it will postpone any “sales without limitations” until Donato has ruled on requests by two groups of advocates for a preliminary injunction intended to stop the sale without a restriction against horses being purchased for slaughter.
The Forest Service had previously announced plans to wild horses ages 10-older captured and removed from California’s last large wild horse herd on Feb. 18.
The shutdown has also put on hold the Forest Service’s plans to sell wild horses ages 10-older for $1 apiece with restrictions against slaughter, an attempt to offload the wild horses before the planned unrestricted sale date.
The plan to drop the price from $25 to $1, has raised concerns that kill buyers, or third parties willing to sell to slaughterhouses, may see the horses as more desirable because of the potential to profit from their slaughter in Canada or Mexico. The Forest Service is allowing a single buyer to purchase up to 24 wild horses each.
In a Dec. 18 press release announcing the sale change, the Forest Service said that “less than 200” wild horses ages 10-over remained and that more than 60 have been adopted out or sold. Previous documents provided to RTF by the Forest Service showed 157 older wild horses remained available for sale or adoption as of Dec. 4.
The wild horses are among 932 captured during a fall helicopter roundup.
As of Dec. 4, 43 horses ages 9-under were available for adoption at Modoc National Forest, located near Alturas, Calif. The balance of the 9-under horses and mares with foals are being prepared for adoption at the Bureau of Land Management’s Litchfield corrals in Susanville, Calif.
Even before the shutdown, poor weather delayed gelding, microchipping and other preperations for the animals and no date to begin adoptions has been set, according to BLM.