---- — ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Animal welfare groups suing to stop a return to domestic horse slaughter are fighting an order that requires them to post a nearly $500,000 bond Friday to keep a temporary ban in effect.
Attorneys for the Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue and others filed a motion Wednesday arguing their lawsuit is against the federal government and its permitting process, not the companies that were recently given permission to begin slaughtering horses, so the bond should not be required.
The groups last month won a temporary restraining order to halt plans by Valley Meat Co. of Roswell, N.M., and Responsible Transportation of Sigourney, Iowa, to open their plants this month. They were then ordered to post the bond to cover the companies' losses should they lose their case.
Blair Dunn, who represents Valley Meat Co., said the court has asked for his response to the bond objection by Wednesday, but it is his understanding that the groups must still post the money by the end of the day Friday or the temporary restraining order prohibiting the companies from doing business would go away.
"They should be posting bond today," Dunn said. "The question is whether they realize that to keep getting what they are asking for they are going to have to keep posting that bond on a monthly basis."
Dunn said he pointed out to the court that the groups, and people like former Gov. Bill Richardson and actor Robert Redford who are publicly backing their attempts to block horse slaughter, "are pretty well off."
Attorneys for the animal groups and officials with the Humane Society did not immediately respond to emails or calls seeking comment.
Earlier this week, Responsible Transportation said it was dropping plans to slaughter horses and would convert its plant to cattle in light of the temporary restraining order.
The Iowa company's president, Keaton Walker, said his firm cannot afford to wait for more court deliberations.
Valley Meat Co., however, which has been at the fore of the fight, has vowed to stay the course. The company has been pushing for almost two years for permission to convert its cattle plant into a horse slaughterhouse.
Valley Meat co. owner Rick De Los Santos said his decision to convert his small slaughterhouse to horses was made after his market for cattle dried up when a number of dairies shut down in southeastern New Mexico.