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Judge rules Placitas horses not wild

ROSALIE RAYBURN/JOURNAL Feral horses search for grazing on land near the Sundance Mesa neighborhood in Placitas.
ROSALIE RAYBURN/JOURNAL Feral horses search for grazing on land near the Sundance Mesa neighborhood in Placitas.
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A District Court Judge in Albuquerque has ruled that the feral horses roaming Placitas are not wild and therefore fall under state livestock laws.

The Wild Horse Observers Association was seeking to stop New Mexico Livestock Board from picking up horses from private property in Placitas under a law governing estray livestock. The case asked the court to declare that the Placitas feral horses are wild.

Since last summer, the Livestock Board has picked up more than 50 feral horses from private property in Placitas at the request of property owners.

Judge Valerie Huling’s ruling issued July 16 said the Wild Horse Observers Association “failed to demonstrate that the horses at issue are not estray livestock and that the (Livestock) Board acted outside of its authority under the Livestock Code.”

“I think it’s a victory for wildlife habitat in the Placitas area. It basically said that the Livestock Board has jurisdiction over the horses,” said David Reynolds, an attorney who represented 12 Placitas residents who intervened in the case in support of the Livestock Board.

In an interview on Monday, Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca  said he never had any doubt that the Board  was following the law, but the ruling answered questions for Placitas residents who capture horses that stray onto their property and call the Livestock Board to pick them up.

The horses have long been a divisive issue in Placitas. the Wild Horse Observers Association has fiercely advocated for the horses right to continue roaming freely. Other Placitas residents claim the horse population has increased so much it outstrips the ability of the land to support them. They say the horses are damaging public and private land.

“We have been at the mercy of these people who demand that these horses roam and ruin our public and our private property and they continually say we have no right to round them up,” said Placitas resident Mike Neas.  He said the ruling means,  “We do have a right to round them up and they are not wild.”

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