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Press Release from Grass Roots Horse

Seeking a court order to stop the already underway Silver King, Nevada wild horse roundup, at least until the court can hear the case, Laura Leigh filed an amended motion for a Temporary Restraining Order today, October 1, 2010 in Reno, NV.

Judge Larry Hicks denied the original motion based on arguments that were set forth in a prior case, Leigh v. Salazar 3:10-cv-417, which involved wild horse roundups during peak foaling season in Elko County, NV this past July that had no relevance to the Motion for the TRO that was filed in regard to the Silver King roundup.

The amended TRO Motion filed today argued that the reason for the TRO denial had no connection to the arguments in the original Silver King TRO motion. The Silver King case is all about First Amendment Rights and is not about “mares and foals” being chased by “helicopters.”

Judge Hicks mistakenly had the Silver King case confused with the previous Owyhee, Rock Creek and Little Humboldt lawsuit.  The Silver King case seeks “access” to all aspects of how the government handles the horses taken from Silver King, from the time of their capture to their ultimate disposition and demise.

Plaintiff, Laura Leigh attended the Silver King roundup on four days, over two weeks, 2 of which were designated public access days and two that were not.  On all four occasions viewing access was so unduly restrictive that it was not possible to see the Silver King horses being captured, and she was unable to carry out her reporting assignment for Horseback Magazine.  In addition, she was held back 35 feet from fences that severely restricted the view of the captured horses. It was impossible to determine the extent of the fresh injuries she had been able to see minimally by lying on the ground and peering under the fence or standing on top of her car hood.

Requests to see the Silver King horses that were, according to the BLM, taken to the BLM’s Palomino Valley facility were denied by Mr. John Neil, manager of that facility as well as acting manager of  Broken Arrow which is a private facility that is off limits to the public.

In attempting to try to keep track of at least one specific Silver King horse, Laura Leigh chose to follow the truck to the Utah prison where the just-captured horses were being transferred for short term holding. The increasingly interested public followed her long trek on what became known as “Laura Watch,” a constant update on the trailer load of stallions who had just been torn from their families and were now on a grueling, over five-hour trip from Pioche, NV  to the prison in Gunnison, Utah.

“When arriving, my vehicle was thoroughly searched, all my possessions were searched, my cigarettes were confiscated. I was denied access to my camera, cell phone. I was put through a background search. Because of the exhaustive search, I was not able to view the captured horses when they were off-loaded from the trailer. The prison in Gunnison, Utah is contained within a secured area. In other words, it is a prison within another restricted area. The outer restricted area (from the prison itself) is where the wild horses are kept. There are signs at this facility indicating it is a facility of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program.” stated Laura Leigh in her sworn declaration.

“While there at the Gunnison, Utah prison, I was able to locate and finally view the horse for whom, I’d told the BLM previously, I would find a home. This is the very first time I was given any reasonable access during this trip although it came at the price of my having to travel several hundred additional miles. It came after being denied two days of access to observing the capturing, processing and shipping of wild horses. It came after being denied access to a facility much closer to my home, it came after a significant background check, personal searches, and finally, it came after I was denied the very tool with which I provide journalistic impressions and comment – my camera,” she further stated.

The lawsuit is supported by Grass Roots Horse, a non-profit organization with a focus on grass roots citizen action to ensure the welfare of our wild horses and burros while upholding the rights found in the American Constitution’s First Amendment.

To read the Amended Motion here and supplemental declaration here or on legal page.