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Wild horse roundup contract terminated following protests

PELAHATCHIE — Wild horse advocates dropped a lawsuit yesterday challenging roundups at a wildlife refuge on the Nevada-California line after federal officials severed ties with a contractor accused by critics of allowing some mustangs to be sold for slaughter.

The Fish and Wildlife Service notified J&S Associates of Mississippi on June 23 that its contract had been terminated and the firm would not be receiving the $11,633 it was to be paid at future roundups.

The move came after Bonnie Kohleriter and Laura Leigh of the Nevada-based group Wild Horse Education claimed in the federal lawsuit that the service couldn’t account for the majority of the 140 horses that J&S rounded up last fall from Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

The case had been scheduled to go before Judge Mirandu Du yesterday, but the plaintiffs confirmed before a status hearing that they were dropping the case.

A telephone call seeking comment went unanswered at J&S in Pelahatchie. General manager Stan Palmer has said before that to his knowledge, none of the horses ended up going to slaughter.

The lawsuit filed in September said the service had continued to hire J&S despite objections from the public and the agency’s own internal review that was unable to account for more than half of the 262 horses J&S gathered from 2010-12.

Leigh said she’s pleased agency officials severed ties with J&S but remains concerned they haven’t detailed what they plan to do with nearly 500 more horses they intend to gather this summer from the refuge about 230 miles north of Reno.

“Current placement options for the horses to be removed in 2014 is of utmost importance to ensure that the mistakes made in the past are not repeated,” she said in a letter to refuge director John Kasbohm.



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