Wild horses and burros

Wild horses and burros gathered from the Warm Springs Herd in southeast Oregon arrive at the BLM corral in Hines on Oct. 7.

PORTLAND — A U.S. District Court judge has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the Bureau of Land Management from moving forward with controversial experiments to surgically remove the ovaries of wild mares in Oregon, according to a news release from a coalition of wild horse advocates and plaintiffs in a case against the agency.

The experiments were set to begin this month on mares recently rounded up from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area, according to the release.

According to the news release, the experiments called for performing an outdated surgical procedure called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which involves manually twisting, severing and removing ovaries via an incision in the mares’ vaginal walls. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the procedure was “inadvisable for field application” due to risk of bleeding and infection, the release states.

Members of the coalition and advocates and plaintiffs in the case include the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), Animal Welfare Institute (AWI); The Cloud Foundation and its executive director Ginger Kathrens, who is also a member of the National BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board; and photographer Carol Walker, according to the release.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled on Friday that the coalition was likely to prevail on its claims that the BLM’s restrictions on public observation of the sterilization procedures violated their First Amendment rights, and that BLM’s decision to drop further inquiry into whether the sterilization procedure was “socially acceptable” was arbitrary and capricious.

In addition, Mosman also stated the plaintiffs’ arguments for an independent veterinary observer to monitor the procedures and to place non-intrusive cameras in the surgical and horse holding areas were reasonable.

The ruling effectively halts the surgical sterilization experiments until the court reaches a final decision in the case.

“We thank the court for preventing the BLM from proceeding with a reckless and inhumane surgical sterilization experiment that would endanger the welfare and lives of federally protected wild horses,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., equine protection manager for AWI, in the release. “Today’s ruling is a decisive victory for animal welfare and for the American people, who not only cherish wild horses but have a First Amendment right to understand how the federal government is treating and managing these herds on public lands.”

According to the release, the BLM had planned to move forward with the experiments despite massive public opposition and the withdrawal of Colorado State University from the project.

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