Fate for horses at Fort Polk?

Fate for horses at Fort Polk?
Source: Fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie
Source: Fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie
Source: Fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie
Source: Fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie

FORT POLK, LA (KPLC) - Fort Polk officials estimate some 700 wild horses roam on or near the post. And it's not necessarily the number that poses a problem — it's where they choose to congregate — in open, grassy areas where soldiers train.

But not everyone thinks the horses need to go.

"The horses, bottom line for Fort Polk and JROTC, represent a significant safety hazard," said Col. David "Gregg" Athey, garrison commander at Fort Polk.

Athey said they're currently reviewing 700 public comments to find a solution to their wild horse problem.

He said their goal is, "To eliminate the horses from Fort Polk."

But not everyone is in favor of that.

"We think they can co-exist together," said Mary Brocato with Louisiana Horse Rescue and Fort Polk Horses of Kisatchie.

Brocato said the horses have a right to be there, "There was a big cavalry regimen at Fort Polk during World War II."

She said many of the horses there today are descendants of those horses they let go.

"They're a Louisiana treasure. They're part of the heritage, the culture, and history of that area," explained Brocato.

The problem? "Wild" horses are protected by federal law from branding, harassment or death. However, the Army and U.S. District Court have determined these horses are "trespass" horses.

And while the issue of horses at Fort Polk has been an ongoing problem, the army said only recently has it become a major concern.

"What we've really noticed in the past five to seven years is a proliferation of horses," said Athey.

While both parties recognize there are abandoned horses there too, Brocato said it shouldn't matter.

"Whether they're cavalry horses; whether they're heritage family horses; whether they are dumped horses, we don't want those horses in the slaughter pipeline," said Brocato.

While Athey hopes to find a reasonable solution, their training is already seeing the impacts.

And although no injuries to soldiers by the horses have been reported yet, Athey said it's only, "a matter of time."

Athey said they expect a decision in January.

Permits are issued but limit an individual to capturing four horses per year on the base. While permits require the person to say they're not selling horses for slaughter, Fort Polk officials said there's no followup conducted by the Army.

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