The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a national leading animal legal defense organization, is opposing the U.S. Army's plan to eliminate trespass horses at Fort Polk.
The group, in a Tuesday news release, called the plan "unrealistic" and maintains it will, "result in slaughter for many of the horses."
Army officials have said under the plan, the process may take up to three years. They also maintain that it provides, "the best opportunity for 501c(3) to assist with the effort while not being overwhelmed with a large volume of horses at one time."
June 17 was the last day to submit public comment on the "Trespass Horse Environmental Assessment." Officials said comments would be considered prior to any final decision.
Attorney Stefanie Wilson, a litigation fellow for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said the organization, along with the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, are representing the local advocacy group, Pegasus Equine Guardian Association.
Wilson said a lawsuit has not been filed, but the organization has notified the Army of their concerns.
"We hope that the Army will take our comments seriously and reconsider this decision. If they continue as planned, we fear that many horses will be sent to auction and slaughter," she said.
The ALDF claims the Army's plan has flaws and lacks supportive research.
"Without a solid grasp on population, movement patterns, and the difference between truly wild horses and abandoned domesticated horses, the Army cannot possibly devise viable management plans or sufficient alternatives," the release states.
The advocates claim that a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the U.S. Army in December 2015 has not been fulfilled.
“This information is critical to developing any successful strategy for managing these horses, and the public cannot meaningfully evaluate and comment on the Army’s proposed plan without it,” said Tulane University Law School Environmental Law Clinical Instructor Machelle Hall.
Fort Polk is home to a large population of horses. Some believe they are descendants of old farm and World War II cavalry horses, and maintain they are part of the area's heritage and history. Army officials, however, contend they are strays from an open-range period in the state or have been abandoned by owners over the years.
Army officials have long said the horses pose risks to soldiers during training because they wander onto airstrips and into drop zones.
"The horses tend to congregate on our drop zones, so they impact airborne operations. They also impact landing zones or landing strips for our fixed wing aircraft as well as in our rotary wing aircraft. Consequently, they represent a pretty significant safety risk to our soldiers, to the aircraft and equipment themselves, and frankly, they also are a hazard to the safety of the horses as well," said Col. David "Gregg" Athey at a public meeting in August 2015 on the horses.
Officials maintain the horses themselves are at risk because of training devices such as concertina wire, live ammunition and military vehicles.
Under a federal court ruling, the horses are not considered "wild." They were determined to be "trespass livestock" and are not entitled to protection under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices in Portland and Los Angeles, according to its website.