Feral Horses Sue Feds Over Neglect

Feral Horses Sue Feds Over Neglect

A federal lawsuit says the National Parks Service has neglected a group of feral horses on Cumberland Island, which sits off the coast of Georgia. According to court documents, the plaintiffs in the case include a couple of horse advocacy groups, concerned citizens, and the horses themselves. 

The case argues that NPS has failed to provide the horses with the necessary food, water, and veterinary services required by Georgia state law. As a result, the horse population on the island — an estimated 140 to 170 — is now “ill, malnourished, and deprived of a normal life expectancy.”

Another part of the problem, according to the lawsuit, is that the horses are not native to the island and are considered an “invasive species.” Therefore, the plaintiffs argue, under federal law, NPS is required to manage the population. 

According to NPS’s website, horses were introduced to Cumberland Island in the late 1500s and continued living there as domesticated animals through the 1960s. The horses of Cumberland weren’t considered feral until after the island was declared a national park in 1972. 

If you’re wondering how the horses could be plaintiffs in the case, it’s not unusual for animals to be named as plaintiffs, according to University of San Francisco law professor Matthew Liebman. In a March 2023 academic paper, he observed that there have been approximately 30 state and federal lawsuits with animal plaintiffs. 

Liebman wrote that legal and philosophical arguments support the idea that animals have legal rights. “Their treatment is not simply an issue of kindness or charity, but an issue of basic and fundamental entitlements that stem from the fact that animals are sentient beings with experiential well-being and the capacity to flourish,” he wrote. 

For relief, the plaintiffs are asking the court to order the federal government to remove the feral horses from Cumberland Island and to recover costs for damages caused by the horses. 

Source: https://outdoors.com/feral-horses-sue-feds-over-neglect/