SPRINGERVILLE, Ariz. (AP) — Wild horse rights advocates are calling on authorities to prosecute whoever is responsible for the reported killing of more than a dozen wild horses in northeastern Arizona.
U.S. Forest Service officials announced Friday that they were investigating the horse deaths, but didn’t release any details.
Phoenix TV station KTVK reported Saturday that witnesses told them 14 horses were found in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest with fatal gunshot wounds to the abdomen, face and between the eyes.
“The person or persons responsible for this act of premeditated, vicious animal cruelty poses a very real danger to people and animals,” Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns and equine welfare specialist for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for a Humane Economy, told KTVK. “We hope to see swift and aggressive action by federal, state, and local law enforcement.”
Simone Netherlands of the Salt River Wild Horse Management group in Arizona said the horses “are not protected by federal government, not protected by state laws, so it’s sickening that someone can just come here and kill them.”
The dead horses were found near Forest Road 25 on the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts, according to the Forest Service, which said in a statement that they are “coordinating with the appropriate officials in support of the investigation.”
Meanwhile, a $20,000 reward continues to being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed five wild horses in eastern Nevada late last year.
The Bureau of Land Management announced last week that the National Mustang Association pledged to double the previous $10,000 reward in the case.
It’s unknown if the Nevada and Arizona cases are related.
Authorities said five mortally wounded horses were discovered Nov. 16 in Jakes Valley, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Ely.
They said the horses all were located within 600 yards of each other about 2 miles (3 kilometers) south of U.S. Highway 50, and an aborted fetus was attached to one of the dead animals.
The BLM is investigating and prosecuting the killings as part of the enforcement of the Wild Horses and Burro Act of 1971.