Horse lovers say nay to Army plan to kick horses off base

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Horse lovers have sued the Army over plans to evict about 700 feral horses from a western Louisiana Army base and national forest areas that it uses for training.

The horses play "a significant historic and cultural role ... in the landscape" of Fort Polk and the Kisatchie National Forest and the Army's plan will send many to slaughter, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the Army violated laws including the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act by deciding it did not need to prepare an environmental impact statement and omitting other steps required to create its plan to put groups of horses up for adoption by nonprofits.

The Army says the horses are a safety risk in training areas.

The Army and Fort Polk's commander, Brig. Gen. Gary M. Brito, are defendants.

Base spokeswoman Kimberly Reischling did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment about the lawsuit, which the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic filed Wednesday in federal court in Baton Rouge for Pegasus Equine Guardian Association — a group created to protect the horses.

Pegasus board member Rickey Robertson said in a statement filed with the lawsuit that the group wants the Army to let the horses remain and to "mitigate any concerns through proper management."

He said settlers brought horses to the area about 1818. Their livestock was so important that they set aside sections of land just for grazing, he wrote.

"Horses ranged free at Peason Ridge for decades upon decades, long before Camp Polk existed," he wrote.

The lawsuit said the Army's plan is likely to result in slaughter because most nonprofit animal welfare organizations cannot take many at a time, and many have been wild for generations, making them unlikely to be adopted.

"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," the lawsuit said.

Earlier this month, the Humane Society of North Texas said it would bring nearly 400 of the Fort Polk horses to Texas over two years, 30 to 50 at a time.