Bureau of Land Management (BLM) personnel and contractors involved in wild horse gathers should receive clear instructions on what constitutes humane horse handling, according to a panel appointed to review procedures during a controversial mustang round-up which took place in Nevada earlier this year.

Beginning in July, the BLM gathered more than 1,200 animals collectively from the Triple B, Maverick-Medicine, and Antelope Valley Herd Management Areas (HMAs) and the Cherry Springs Wild Horse Territory, all located in Nevada. The gather became controversial in August when wild horse advocate Laura Leigh, vice president of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, filed a complaint and a companion Temporary Restraining Order asking the U.S. District Court Nevada District to shop the round-up on grounds that animals in holding facilities lack water, are inappropriately fed, and that helicopter pilots fly dangerously close to exhausted animals.

In September BLM Director Bob Abbey announced that a review team composed of agency personnel would review existing agency procedures used at the Triple B gather. On Dec. 7 the BLM released the panel’s findings.

After reviewing U.S. District Court materials and conducting interviews with external equine welfare advocates, BLM personnel, and the helicopter contractor used in the gather, review team members reported no consensus among animal welfare experts that animals were treated inhumanely during a single incident during the gather. However, the panel did cite specific incidents of "inappropriate, aggressive practices" during the gather including cases when helicopter operators few too closely to a si