Fort Polk was getting ready to implement a course of action in September 2016 for the “elimination of trespass horses” from the Army base. Now the plan is underway but an animal welfare group is not happy about it.
The Army seeks to eliminate horses from the Fort Polk Military Installation and Kisatchie National Forest, citing concerns for military personnel and training capabilities.
According to Kim Reischling, Fort Polk Public Affairs, “Fort Polk completed the Environmental Assessment for the Elimination of the Trespass Horses from Fort Polk and successfully removed approximately 60 horses under the approved process.
Those horses were taken by the Humane Society of North Texas (HSNT).
The Army’s course of action relies upon nonprofit organizations, or private individuals or entities, to adopt or relocate the horses.
Cassie Lackey, HSNT Communication Relations Manager stated, “The majority, 45 to be exact, of the Fort Polk horses were adopted to Texas families or rescues and another 26 were transported out of state by our partnering rescues. Unfortunately, 6 were euthanized due to untreatable health issues.
“All of our partnering rescues are screened as well as our equine adopters. We do not have any remaining Fort Polk horses in our care.”
HSNT is on the list to receive more Fort Polk horses, however due to the number of equine they took last time, they are not on the top of the list.
Pegasus Equine Guardian Association represented by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic filed a lawsuit in December 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in Baton Rouge, naming the U.S. Army and Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito as defendants.
Pegasus is made up of concerned citizens who live in and around Fort Polk. The group formed when Army officials started the discussion about removing horses.
Pegasus wants the court to stop Fort Polk from removing what is estimated to be 700 “wild” horses roaming the area until the environmental, historical, and cultural impact is analyzed. It further alleges the Army failed to propose alternatives for properly managing the horses.
One of Pegasus’ concerns is that most nonprofit animal welfare organizations may not have the capacity or resources to accept horses in large quantities. The suit claims, “Since many of the horses are undomesticated, they are not attractive to individuals seeking to adopt a riding horse.
“The Army will sell horses that are not adopted. But horses sold at auction are often bought by kill-buyers, and transported to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.”
Lackey cannot speak for other organizations but she says this is not the case with HSNT. “We absolutely do not sell to slaughterhouses, nor do the partnering rescues we work with,” she stated. “We are always extremely concerned about horses being sent to slaughter, which is why we screen all of our adopters before they are adopted out.”
Pegasus President Amy Hanchey believes the Army’s plan sets a dangerous precedent. “The unique herds of truly wild horses are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans. They should be preserved and protected.”
Pegasus distinguishes the horses as “wild,” whereas Fort Polk calls them “trespass” horses. The difference denotes whether or not the majority of the horses have been on the land long before it was Fort Polk or if they are “trespass horses” – mostly abandoned by owners who can no longer care for them.
“The Kisatchie Horses are herds of undomesticated horses that have lived in the region for generations, and they are a critical component of the cultural history in Western Louisiana,” the suit states.
Due to ongoing litigation, Fort Polk’s Public Affairs Office is unable to comment further about the lawsuit.