FoA attends pre-trial hearing for woman accused of abusing her mustangs

By Nicole Rivard

Friends of Animals was in Danbury Superior Court on Sept. 17 to attend the criminal hearing of Lisa Lind-Larsen, the Redding woman who faces two counts of animal cruelty after the Department of Agriculture seized her two emaciated mares, Chinook and Cheyenne, in July. Lind-Larsen has had the mustangs since August 2004, when she acquired them from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program. 

The criminal hearing was postponed until Oct. 6 as Lind-Larsen claims she needs additional time to secure another lawyer because of a discrepancy with her current lawyer and her pending civil action case—which will determine whether or not she may regain custody of the horses. 

Since the civil action hearing, Friends of Animals has learned that Chinook is 14 years old and was ripped from her family and rounded up on Jan. 8, 2002 in Antelope Valley, Nevada. Cheyenne is 13 years old and was rounded up and taken from her family on Aug. 11, 2003, in Sulphur, Utah.

“We think Lind-Larsen is a danger to horses and all animals,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of animals, who attended the civil action hearing earlier in September to show support for the prosecution. 

“We are hoping for tough, creative sentencing that not only results in the maximum penalty of a year in prison and/or $1,000 fine, we support sentencing that prevents Lind-Larsen from ever acquiring a horse, or any other animal for that matter, ever again,” Feral said. “Lind-Larsen had excuses for everything and blamed everything on other people and circumstances rather than be held accountable. But she is the one who failed. These horses don’t deserve to be subjected to her inability to resolve any type of crisis. Her mistakes only haunt and harm Chinook and Cheyenne.”

This case hits home for Friends of Animals, as the organization just returned home from a protest of the BLM in Wyoming. When Friends of Animals learned back in July that the BLM’s scheduled wild horse roundup would eliminate almost all wild horses (800 to be exact) on the 1.2 million acre Checkerboard land (alternating one mile square sections of private and public land for 20 miles on either side of Interstate 80) within three Herd Management Areas (HMA) in Wyoming, the organization sprang into action. It joined four other wild horse advocacy groups and organized a protest and press conference outside the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting on Aug. 24 in Riverton, Wy. 

FoA’s message was clear to the group that advises on national policy for wild horses—the BLM needs to lower the number of livestock on public lands, not wild horses—and stop being bullied by ranchers.

The BLM’s war on wild horses in Wyoming got underway on Monday, Sept. 15 in the Salt Wells Herd Management Area. Two helicopters rounded up 16 horses—six mares, six studs, and four colts. On Tuesday, two helicopters rounded up 63 wild horses from the Divide Basin Herd Management Area, including 24 mares, 20 studs and 19 colts. On Wednesday two helicopters rounded up 36 horses—15 mares, 13 studs and eight colts—from the Divide Basin Herd Management Area.  A 16-month old bay stud colt was found dead in a short-term holding pen Wednesday morning. The necropsy revealed an acute neck injury likely the result of running into a panel during the night.

This week also marked the deadline for when U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to respond to Friends of Animals’ petition to list North American wild horses on public lands as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the best hope for the survival of wild horses in Wyoming and other states since the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act (WHBA), which was passed in 1971, has failed to protect our wild horses. 

“In light of BLM’s intention to virtually wipe-out Wyoming’s remaining wild horse population, the time is now for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to our petition to place these animals on the list of endangered or threatened species,” said FoA’s Wildlife Law Program Director Michael Harris. 

“With one agency—the BLM—already failing the horses, we ask USFWS to treat the situation in Wyoming as an emergency requiring immediate action. And given the strong evidence that wild horses are a distinct population of a reintroduced North American native species, they clearly deserve our protection.” 

Listing wild horses, which the BLM claims are non-native despite scientific evidence, as either threatened or endangered under the ESA would provide needed regulation to halt further exploitation of this species, particularly roundups removing the animals from their range.

The case of animal cruelty in Connecticut demonstrates that the abuse caused from these roundups is far reaching. Who knows how many other horses ripped from their families on the range experience similar fates as Chinook and Cheyenne through the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program?