PHOENIX - A federal judge on Tuesday barred the U.S. Forest Service from rounding up hundreds of wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest and selling them for slaughter.
U.S. District Court judge Frederic Martone wrote that the Forest Service argument that it didn't have to comply with laws governing wild horses because the animals in question strayed onto the forest after the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski forest fire and were domesticated hadn't been proven.
In fact, Martone wrote, the government's arguments and its lawyer's statements showed that it didn't thoroughly consider if the horses were covered by the wild horse law before ordering them rounded up and sold.
Three animal rights groups - the Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros - brought the suit, joined by two individuals. They argued that the horses on the forest could be traced back hundreds of years and were in fact wild, triggering the wild horse law.
Martone's preliminary injunction barring the roundup will remain in force until a full trial is held or the case ended by a summary judgment.
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