Vernon Parish, La. (KALB) On Sunday afternoon, a group of volunteers and potential adopters admired a herd of Fort Polk horses at their temporary home in Rosepine.
A group of Fort Polk horses at their temporary home on a Rosepine property. (KALB)
Lisa Alexander with Freedom Reins Ranch and Rescue in Leesville said the 24 horses currently on a property in Rosepine are from Fort Polk's July roundup. Although Meridian Falls Ranch, a Texas-based non-profit organization has been responsible for picking up the last three groups of Fort Polk horses since May, Alexander said she and a donor purchased a total of 28 horses from a horse lot known locally as 'a kill pen' for about ten thousand dollars.
"Unfortunately...(they) thought that was the best option for them even though there were plenty of us that were willing to help."
Alexander added that each horse was $385 plus a $35 Coggins fee and "that was just to start with."
The horse lot told KALB on Monday that although they did sell horses to Alexander, it's unclear where each horse came from but that they've never had Fort Polk horses on their property nor are they interested in purchasing them.
Attempts to reach Meridian for comment about the whereabouts of the July Ft. Polk horse group were not immediately successful on Monday. KALB emailed Meridian and called the number of one of their associates but it was disconnected. However, their website said they are in "dire" need of items to help with the Fort Polk Horse Project. It said it has taken them 'several failed attempts to shape a working policy' for housing and placing the horses - attempts they say are 'complicated by groups passionately against the idea of rounding up the horses and who are spreading misinformation about them.' As a result, the website stated it removed their Facebook page.
Out several thousand dollars, Alexander said the next step for herself and other advocates is raising awareness.
"So that we can try to help these horses instead of the next group winding up at a kill pen. We cannot sustain this. This is not sustainable to spend ten to twelve grand every thirty days. I will wipe out my donors."
Amy Hanchey with Pegasus Equine Guardian Association or PEGA, which filed a lawsuit against the Army back in 2016 said she became concerned about Meridian after she and Alexander said the group ceased all correspondence with local advocates. She also said a woman associated with Meridian, who went by Crystal LeBron was convicted as Shandy Ann LeBron of cruelty to livestock in Texas back in 2016 according to records on Hunt County's website. Hanchey sent this and other concerns to the Army in a letter in an ongoing effort to prompt change, all of which is available on PEGA's website. Roundups will continue as PEGA awaits a judge's final ruling.
"I would like to see the Army promote these good-hearted people to give them the ability to help save the horses and not use kill buyers for round-up. (Also) to investigate these 501(c)(3) on their list to at least make sure these people are legitimately known for saving and rescuing horses."
Fort Polk provided the following statement on Monday:
"Fort Polk has completed an Environmental Assessment for the Elimination of the Trespass Horses from Fort Polk and successfully removed approximately 200 horses under the approved process. Those horses were taken by three animal welfare groups, the Humane Society of North Texas, Horses Lives Matter and Meridian Falls Ranch. A lawsuit was filed regarding the removal of the trespass horses from Fort Polk. Due to that ongoing litigation, we are unable to provide further information."
The Department of Justice declined to comment.
Alexander said she'd like to see a 'Friends of Fort Polk Horses' type of non-profit organization completely take over the round-ups for the Army. She said the key is to be strategic about how the horses are rounded up.
"You could take all the young and you could take all the momma and baby pairs, you're going to get rid of your breeding problem because if the mares are picked up, there's only a few left...and work through each group so your last group, your hardest group might be the senior studs, you know the ones that nobody really wants to adopt."
Alexander said she and others are willing and able to take on the responsibility and estimated that all of the remaining Fort Polk horses could be removed this way over the next two to three years.