They shoot horses, don’t they? (Wild Horses: US)

Overrun U. S. federal agency says euthanasia an option

By MARY VALLIS, National Post Published: Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The spirit of America has long been symbolized by the wild horses that gallop across its plains, so much so that the federal government enacted legislation to protect them back in the ’70s.

But now, the very agency charged with protecting wild horses is threatening to kill them, saying an overpopulation of horses and a lack of funds are making its task nearly impossible.

The U. S. Bureau of Land Management says rising fuel and hay costs are making it nearly impossible to round up and care for mustangs that would not otherwise survive on public land. The agency says it is now “exploring options” to address the problem, including selling the horses to any and all willing buyers — and, for the first time, euthanizing the ones no one wants.

“Frankly, we’re desperate,” said JoLynn Worley, a bureau spokeswoman in Nevada, which has more wild horses than any other state. Euthanization is not a popular option, but the agency is looking at all available means to solve its problems, she added. The agency’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is expected to weigh its options at an meeting this fall.

Wild horse advocates are outraged, saying the land management bureau is proving to be the horses’ greatest threat. Animal protection groups met in Washington, D. C., yesterday to discuss their legal and political options, as well as a public campaign to save the horses.

“These horses are living symbols of this country,” said Virginie Parant of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. She alleges that the bureau is using euthanization as a threat to strong-arm Congress into giving it more money.

“They’re holding our horses hostage … They have a gun pointed to the horses’ heads, saying, ‘We need more money or else.’ ”

According to the national Bureau of Land Management, about 33,000 wild horses and burros roam the federal lands it manages in the western United States — nearly 6,000 more than it claims the land can sustain. Ongoing droughts in the West make it difficult for wild horses to survive on their own because they cannot find enough food or water.

In 1971, the United States introduced the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which declared the animals “living symbols of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West” that should be protected from “harassment or death.” The Bureau of Land Management took over responsibility for protecting the horses. The agency now routinely rounds up wild horses and takes them to pastures in Kansas and Oklahoma, where they wait for adoption or live out their days, sometimes spending as much as 25 years at the federally funded holding facilities. As of last month, the federal bureau was paying for more than 30,000 “excess” wild horses to be cared for and fed.

Some horse lovers take in mustangs and train them as work or riding horses, while others are turned loose on private ranges. The agency also donates horses to a national competition called Extreme Mustang Makeover, in which they have 100 days to train mustangs and then compete for a US$50,000 prize in Texas. Some trainers adopt their animals afterwards.

Photograph Getty Images

In 1971, the United States declared wild horses “living symbols of the historic and pioneering spirit of the West” that should be protected.


But adoption rates were down 16% in 2007 from 2005, while its transportation and feeding costs have increased US$4-million in the last year. Horses that are not adopted have been living indefinitely on the taxpayers’ dime. The agency predicts it will need US$44-million for its wild horse program; Congress has only allocated US$37-million. By 2012, costs could spiral as high as US$77-million, the Bureau of Land Management warns.

Wild horse advocates say the problem is largely of the agency’s own making through bad management. They argue the federal bureau panders to private interests by loaning out too much public land to private ranchers, who let livestock roam where wild horses could run free.

“If they think they can get away with slaughtering all these horses to help private ranchers overgraze the public land, they’re sadly mistaken,” warned Dr. John Grandy, senior vice-president for wildlife and habitat protection with the Humane Society of the United States.

The best way to manage wild horses is no management at all, others say.

“The Bureau of Land Management has been very good at misleading the American people over the last decade on this issue,” said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for the Animal Welfare Institute.

“These are wild animals that have survived magnificently in the wild on their own. They don’t need human intervention,” he said.

With virtually no natural predators, herds of wild horses can double in size every four years, according to the land management bureau. The animals reproduce so quickly that they can quickly outstrip the natural resources available to them, said Bob Conrad, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Conservation.

“They are magnificent animals,” he said. “It’s also devastating on the other end when you go to one of these sites and you see these horses — some just literally falling over right in front of you because of lack of forage, or lack of water. It’s a fairly common occurrence if they’re not rounded up.”

Ms. Worley, the bureau spokeswoman in Nevada, said the federal agency carefully factors in the influence of livestock permits and other land uses, including mining and recreation, when calculating how many wild horses its land can sustain.

The agency is also considering selling off wild horses “without limitation,” another available option. Under the proposed rule change, however, the federal bureau could sell hundreds of horses at a time without asking any questions about where they will wind up. (Until now, the agency has sold larger groups of 20 or 50 wild horses to single buyers — but first making sure they sign a document promising they will not sell the horses for slaughter.)

That means the United States’ wild horses could wind up at Canadian slaughterhouses. Court cases shut down the last three U. S. abattoirs last year, so thousands of horses are purchased by “kill buyers” and shipped to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

Yet Ms. Worley was quick to point out the measures being considered do not apply to all wild horses.

“There will always be wild horses on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management,” she stressed.

View original story at this link.

1 thought on “They shoot horses, don’t they? (Wild Horses: US)”

  1. Let me see, we can give billions to continue a war, we give billions to fly to the moon, why can’t we give a couple of millions to save these horses? I guess the idea that these horses won’t be worth anything keeps their being kept alive not important.

    I for one want my money to go to saving these horses and other creatures. It is about time that we start giving back where the only thing we have done is TAKE. If we continue to keep taking without giving back, only the worst can happen.

    We need to DO THE RIGHT THING!


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