Continued Animal Welfare Concerns for Free Roaming Horses near Fort Polk and Peason Ridge in Kisatchie National Forest

As national attention toward the inhumane treatment of America’s Wild and Free Roaming Horses increases, animal welfare concerns for hundreds of horses in Louisiana’s Kisatchie National Forest and Fort Polk Army Base continue to mount.
Fort Polk officials and US Forestry Service contacts indicated they would not take any action until after 01/01/2016 and multiple individuals responded to their request to submit ideas and offers to assist. Yet they are allowing removals by the public of these Free Roaming horses that have made Kisatchie National Forest their home for decades.
The herds, estimated by the military to be at least 450, have roamed in Kisatchie National Forest for close to a century. Some were reportedly turned out after their service to our country during World War II at Fort Polk. Accounts indicate Heritage families left horses behind when forced to leave their farms due to military training at Camp Polk in the 1930’s: http://www.polkhistory.org/Default.aspx
Some 90 years ago, mules and horses were said to have been released into the Forest in Peason Ridge to run with existing wild horses after heavy logging work had ceased. Referred to by locals as Swamp Horses or Piney Horses, the horses had lived peacefully in these very remote wooded areas for as long as they can remember; and may be descendants of horses that had been there much longer. Read about the area’s rich logging history that spans all the way back to the 1920’s and a 6+ acre corral site area that housed cattle, horses and mules in the southeast section of Sabine Parish, LA: http://www.sfasu.edu/heritagecenter/
Today, abandoned horses of every size and shape have mixed with the Fort Polk area herd; leaving a disproportionate number of stallions to mares, resulting in mares of every age continually in foal. While the Army had referred to the herds as Wild Horses descended from Calvary horses or livestock owned by families in the area; they are now calling them ALL “Trespass Horses” and their focus has been for them to be removed. http://www.jrtc-polk.army.mil/trespass_horses.html
While there are detailed guidelines for managing horses in this situation that include humane handling and accountable records, the horses have been captured by the general public and have passed through hands of individuals who have stated on social media that they send horses to slaughter. A known kill buyer currently has Fort Polk horses and is offering them for sale. Because they are selling/transferring ownership of the horses (livestock), they will not be able to prevent the animals from shipping to slaughter once the animals are sold to another party. Not only do the Fort Polk and Peason Ridge area horses carry no identification; but also no documentation has been presented that validates testing/treatment for known contagious equine diseases.
Louisiana law dictates that abandoning horses is illegal; yet enforcement of these crimes has been lacking, contributing to this mounting animal welfare issue: http://www.pawsnela.org/docs/LA-Animal-Welfare-Laws.pdf
“Louisiana Revised Statutes. Title 14. Criminal Law. Chapter 1. Criminal Code. Part VI. Offenses Affecting The Public Generally and Subpart B. Offenses Affecting The Public Sensibility Primary Citation. 102. Definitions; cruelty to animals. The following words, phrases, and terms as used in R.S. 14:102.1 through R.S. 14:102.4 shall be defined and construed as follows: (1) “Cruel” means every act or failure to act whereby unjustifiable physical pain or suffering is caused or permitted. (2) “Abandons” means to completely forsake and desert an animal previously under the custody or possession of a person without making reasonable arrangements for its proper care, sustenance, and shelter.”
While all horses at Fort Polk and Peason Ridge areas deserve to be treated humanely, some that have escaped rough and painful capture attempts have been photographed in the past recent weeks that reveal disturbing images including: multiple ropes pulled tightly around a mare’s neck; and another horse roaming with an arrow dart stuck in its side.
Under Louisiana Law, horses are defined as livestock (not wildlife). Therefore darting for purpose of capturing the horses is illegal:
“The use or administration of any drug or feed additive affecting the central nervous system of the livestock, unless administered or prescribed by a licensed veterinarian for the treatment of an illness or an injury.”
Although this issue has been brewing from as far back as before 1993, it is repeating itself with the most current surge of the Army wanting large quantities of the Fort Polk and Peason Ridge Logging area horses gone. The Army nor the U.S. Forestry Service specializes in these areas, so extra attention will need to be directed to those animals that remain in the wild, as well as the individuals that adopt them.
None should be sold for slaughter. ALL horses should be treated humanely, in a manner consistent with accepted animal husbandry practices.
Once the animals are captured (via use of a “Limited Access and Livestock Capture Agreement“), the Fort Polk Army Base and the US Forestry staff also admittedly lack resources to follow-up to verify the whereabouts of the horses after they leave the property.
WHAT ABOUT SOLUTIONS?
Perhaps land within Kisatchie National Forest could be set aside for the remaining horses to roam on. HUMANE SOLUTIONS need to be based on what HAS worked, what IS working and what CAN work. If removed, these horses need gentle handling by skilled horsemen using humane handling techniques. Some may need vaccinations/worming; others may need immediate veterinary care. With patience, dedication and respect for natural herd behavior, these horses CAN be humanely handled.
Read how citizens assist with management of Free Roaming horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park: The “North Dakota Badlands Horse” (NDBH) Group; have a PARTNERSHIP with Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP)www.facebook.com/NDBadlandsHorse. The group was organized in 2009 because the wild horses in TRNP had been subject to capture by kill buyers. As with the horses in Kisatchie National Forest, there had been no lasting voice for these historic horses. The NDBH now has a Partnership Agreement with TRNP that was signed in March of 2015. The horses are no longer rounded up with helicopters or go to the sale barn.
The group is now assisting the park in gathering with low-stress methods AND it is their responsibility to find homes for them. The group is also responsible for the adopted population. Recently the NDBH group was invited to Stockmanship workshop (Hand n Hand Livestock Solutions) www.facebook.com/HandnHandLivestock…. During the event, members learned more about keeping stress low during handling; as well as preparing the horses to deal with the stress inducing events like weaning, vetting, loading and transport and more. These same practices can also be utilized to help the horses in Kisatchie National Forest if officials will give interested parties the opportunity to assist.
Author’s Notes: It is important to note that Gelding or sterilizing horses living in the Wild as a solution for population control is a MISTAKE. It also skews the gene pool which could result in inbreeding, health defects and less hardiness in the horses that are left to survive on their own in the Wild.
The “domesticated” point of reference to gelding is not applicable for horses left in the Wild. Animals living in the Wild need ALL of the natural instinct and natural ability that nature has given them for procreation, natural selection and survival. Observing how a mare acts in heat or the way a stallion behaves around subordinate horses clearly gives us an idea of the POWER of hormones and instinct. While these behaviors are something we need to SUPPRESS at our local boarding barn, horse show or at racetracks, they are the very behaviors that are part of the CODE of Horses living in the Wild.
Existing properly executed non-permanent reproductive control, developed specifically for equine (as is done in the Asseteague Island Horses) may be a solution in order for the horses to remain in the Wild. Not spaying, not gelding, not any kind of sterilization. Knowledge is the key to help and NOT unintentionally HURT these animals.
*For adoption or sanctuary purposes: Keep in mind there are SERIOUS, fatal medical risks associated with gelding of older intact males. So if the horses are removed, adopters should ONLY consider a younger stallion, mare or youngsters for this reason.
WAYS YOU CAN HELP TO SPREAD AWARENESS
1)Like and share our Facebook page:  Fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie
Use the following hashtags on Facebook and Twitter!
‪#‎ProtectWildHorses‬ ‪#‎SaveWildHorses‬ ‪#‎FortPolk‬ ‪#‎Kisatchie‬ ‪#‎PeasonRidge‬ ‪#‎OpCowgirl‬ ‪#‎OpCowboy‬ ‪#‎WildHorses‬ #Horses
2)Contact Officials
Governor Bobby Jindal (225) 342-7015
Rep. John Fleming [R]
(318) 549-1712
(318) 798-2254
(337) 238-0778
(202) 225-2777
Leesville Mayor:
Rick Allen
337-239-2444
rick.allen@leesvillela.gov
vppj@vppjla.com
Ag Commissioner ELECT:
Mike Strain
225-771-8942
@MikeStrain4LA
Senators:
LA — ‪#‎Cassidy‬, Bill —— (202) 224-5824
LA — ‪#‎Vitter‬, David —– (202) 224-4623
House of Representatives:
LA-1 — ‪#‎Scalise‬, Steve ———– 202-225-3015
LA-2 — ‪#‎Richmond‬, Cedric ——- 202-225-6636
LA-3 — ‪#‎Boustany‬ Jr., Charles —–202-225-2031
LA-4 — ‪#‎Fleming‬, John ———- 202-225-2777
LA-5 — ‪#‎Abraham‬, Ralph ——- -202-225-8490
LA-6 — ‪#‎Graves‬, Garret ——— 202-225-3901
Scott Angelle 337-442-1498
John Bel Edwards (985)748-2245
White House (202) 456-1111
Kisatchie (800) 832-1355
Let them know these horses need to be protected from an uncertain future and include the below language:***It cannot be stressed enough that comments to officials provided in this Note should be respectful and include the specific request:
“that a hold be placed on removals until a comprehensive, ethical, humane, conservative and executable plan has been developed and disclosed to the public; and that horses either be relocated to another area of Kisatchie National Forest (over 600,000 acres) where they will be free from harm or that they be humanely handled if removed; and that they should only go to long-term adoptive homes or sanctuaries instead of loaded up and removed in trailers, with their whereabouts and destiny unknown.”
3)Contact The White House
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
(202) 456-1111
Handwritten notes requesting assistance with above concerns may be helpful in gaining more handling and attention.
4) Wild Horse Oversight Act Legislation S.1845 H.R.3172 – OPPOSE
Introduced in July, 2015 and that should be OPPOSED
Would put every single Wild, Captured, Free Roaming, BLM, non BLM, or “Feral” Equine (all 80,000) of them in the *VERY SAME* predicament as…
  • FORT POLK AND PEASON RIDGE LOGGING AREA HORSES(Louisiana)
  • THE SALT RIVER WILD HORSES(Arizona)
  • PLACITAS WILD HORSES(New Mexico)
  • WEST DOUGLAS, PICEANCE-EAST DOUGLAS HERD(Colorado)
  • VIRGINIA RANGE HORSES
  • HEBER HERD and others
We believe the American people would be astounded to learn what is happening to these horses, not only from a humane animal welfare standpoint, but also due to their historical heritage. With the Election Year soon approaching, you may also contact our country’s elected officials and request their assistance to help protect America’s Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros by selecting *Your State* at the following link where all contacts are provided in one place: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members
This Note will be updated as needed. Thank you for caring and taking above requested actions.
WE ARE THEIR ONLY VOICE 

Written by Kimberly Sheppard. Photo courtesy of fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie

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