Proposal offers brighter future for wild horses and burros

By on April 22, 2019 with 35 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program is broken. Since inception of the program, the BLM has removed approximately 270,000 wild horses and burros from our public lands, without any significant use of fertility control tools, and without a plan to ensure the long-term viability and humane treatment of wild horses and burros.

For many years, BLM and equine advocates have been locked in a continuing cycle of ever-increasing removals, more and more horses warehoused in holding facilities (and the associated rising costs), and a political and policy stalemate between stakeholders – with no solutions in sight. Meanwhile wild horse and burro populations have grown — as have political tensions surrounding the program — and to date because no viable solutions have been presented to Congress — we are looking at a future in which the BLM will likely to be directed by Congress to sell wild horse and burros without limitation, or destroy “excess” wild horses and burros.

Three years ago the HSUS, HSLF and its allies decided enough was enough, and started to work cooperatively with other stakeholders on a simple goal – find a responsible way forward. Today, we are announcing our support for a landmark proposal for the care of America’s wild horses and burros.

Working in concert with other animal welfare, wild horse advocacy, conservation and rangeland management stakeholders, we have developed a proposal for the non-lethal and humane care of wild horses and burros, with four key elements:

  1. Comprehensive large-scale application of proven, safe and humane fertility control strategies to help stabilize wild horse and burro populations on the range and to slow population growth.
  2. Targeted gathers of horses and burros in densely populated areas that cannot sustain large numbers of animals, to protect horses and burros from forage and water shortages, lower populations, and facilitate non-lethal fertility control and population control efforts.
  3. Relocate horses and burros in short-term holding facilities, and those taken off the range, to large cost-effective, humane pasture facilities that provide a free-roaming environment for wild horses and burros.
  4. Promoting the adoption of wild horses and burros into good homes to improve the lives of currently warehoused horses and burros, reduce the total cost of the program, and redirect funds to long-term strategies for the care and sustainability of horse and burro populations.

This proposal represents an entirely new, humane and comprehensive approach to wild horse and burro management–combining a number of techniques currently in use with new and innovative approaches into a larger framework for humane long-term care and rehoming of horses and burros.

One thing the proposal doesn’t include? The destruction or unlimited sale of healthy wild horses and burros. Although this proposal requires some interventions for horses that the humane community has fought in the past, the comprehensive plan, as a whole, is the best path forward to protect America’s horses from an ineffective status quo.

Fighting the big fights to protect all animals requires more than just objecting and opposing inhumane treatment of animals. It requires creative action to change the status quo. And this includes working with people from many different backgrounds and interests to find real-world solutions for animals. We’ve taken that approach here, as we have done in the past for other many other animals on many occasions.

It wasn’t easy to get here, but it is the very best pathway forward. We all want to see healthy herds of wild horses and burros on the range in perpetuity, and we firmly believe something must be done now to prevent the suffering of horses and burros in the future. Working together we have broken the stalemate and presented to Congress a cooperative solution that focuses on the non-lethal and humane care of wild horses and burros, and also ensures the long-term protection of wild horses and burros and our western rangelands. Now we must call on Congress to fund this pathway forward to sustain these American icons for decades to come.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Read our FAQ about this proposal here

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Tim Parmly says:

    This seems as if it is a done deal or is it? If it does come to getting a budget for this program, the roundups have to be totally revised. Spending 6 million on helicopter contracts that is absolutely cruel and inhumane on so many levels is asinine. There are going to be many questions raised as to how all this came about and is the ASPCA involved and other wild horse advocacy groups. It can’t be just you and your legislative arm deciding this. It is hard to believe the BLM is suddenly seeking compromise after never recognizing concerns of advocates. If this does happen, the whole procedure has to be rethought for humane reasons.

    • Susan Knox says:

      Helicopters should be removed from the program. These animals should not suffer because of humans. They depend on us for their safety. It is demoralizing to the whole people to see them mistreated, and we need good moral support now when everything in the government is going badly and depressing us all.

    • Linda says:

      You are very clear!

  2. Patti Elaine Pruden says:

    You no longer have my support financial or otherwise. the cattlemen who pay next to nothing and overgraze our land are behind this program. The BLM has been proven to less than truthful in how they manage wildlife have taken you for a ride.

    Let them prove that they will implement these changes first then perhaps some of their requests can be carried out. How are you going to supervise all these promises? I am very disappointed in you,

    • Sally lowell says:

      Deeply disappointed and disgusted by your actions which display no understanding of the BLM machinations and I had been a supporter/member of HSUS for over 20 years-no more.

  3. Jon Fisher says:

    It appears that the information provided by the HSUS is not fully transparent. The following information was published by the AWHC (American Wild Horse Campaign) today:

    “On Monday, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the ASPCA and Return to Freedom announced a deal with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, rancher lobbyists, and Rep. Chris Stewart, the leading advocate in Congress for the mass destruction of wild horses. It’s a bad deal and disregards the Statement of Principles and Recommendations signed by more than 100 horse organizations:

    It would require the removal of an unprecedented 15,000-20,000 wild horses from public lands in Fiscal Year 2020 alone. Large-scale removals, involving cruel and inhumane helicopter roundups, are envisioned for several additional years to get within 20 percent of the BLM’s
    (Bureau of Land Management) extinction-level population limit of 27,000 horses on 27 million acres of BLM land.
    It will continue a policy of cruel roundups and confinement. The BLM will have control over these horses, and any improved holding facilities, like “enclosed pastures” will be managed by the BLM and at the mercy of annual appropriations.
    The only scientifically proven method of humane population management, PZP fertility control, is not mandated. The BLM has repeatedly demonstrated its unwillingness to use PZP, as it currently spends 0% of its budget on it. Instead, the agency has demonstrated its preference for more draconian measures, including surgical sterilization and managing wild horses in non-reproducing and single-sex herds.
    It’s unscientific and prioritizes cattle over wildlife. The plan accepts the BLM’s unscientific population limits for wild horses and burros, for which the National Academy of Sciences found no scientific support, and which are based on restricting these animals to just 12 percent of BLM lands and then allocating 80 percent of the forage in the remaining habitat to privately-owned livestock.
    It’s unsustainable and expensive. Removing 15,000-20,000 horses from the range will cost at least $15-20 million, and storing them in holding for just one year could add $30 million annually to the BLM’s $80 million a year budget.”

    • Kelea Hobson says:

      And if they sterilize all the females as they have said, life stops for both horses and burros!! This doesn’t work for them or me!!!

  4. Sue carter says:

    So what is so new about this, other than you expect to roundup 20,000 wild horses and foals per year? Double that of this year’s outrageous and deadly roundups?
    Is HSUS about to release a new “growth suppression” agent?
    How are you coming up with hundreds of thousands or millions of acres of great pasture?
    Are we supposed to be happy that 26,000 non-reproducing horses will be the future of America’s once free-roaming Wild Horses?
    Who wrote this thing? Tom Lenz and Forrest Lucas?
    Sorry, but this sounds like a plan for disaster.

    • Kelea Hobson says:

      If you read the Wild horse Annie Act of 1959, and really read the Act of 1971, it says Roundups are illegal, helicopters are illegal, abuse and killing of native wild horses and burros are illegal. In the 1971 Act it wasn’t modified to exclude the Roundups, helicopters, abuse, or killing of wild horses on their natural lands.

  5. Linda Arndt DVM says:

    Sorry, this is not a compromise. It is more of the same. Horses removed, replaced with cattle/sheep, range land destroyed in the process, ranching/oil/gas/mining corporations making more profit. Fertility control which is not mandated leads to more roundup abuse. We need wild horses to remain on our public lands, their numbers controlled with fertility control drugs as needed. Put the BLM staff to work coordinating with activists to save the herds, not bury them in holding pens or non-breeding groupings. The drugs work, the wild horses remain in the public land environments allotted them by congress. The rich corporations must stop being subsidized by taxpayers. This organization has lost its way and betrayed our trust. Public lands and its wild animals including wild horses belong to the American people, for our enjoyment, recreational use, tourist destinations, and must be preserved for generations to come. This so called compromise must not be fulfilled.

  6. colette kaluza says:

    Where is plan? And who are the creators of the plan?

    • DonnaTaylor says:

      I believe Chris Steward from Utah..horses #1 enemy…he actually wants to open up Public lands for mining and cattle…

      • Susan Knox says:

        He is a Mormon. Mormon church has been sued for child sexual abuse of children from 8 years old to 14. It is well known that men who abuse children also abuse old people and animals and any one else who can’t fight back. Abusers are despicable bullies. He would do well to Not support this bill if he wants to be re-elected.

  7. Julia Ballard says:

    The process by which the BLM rounds up and captures these horses is cruel. It terrorizes the horses, numerous mares lose their unborn foals due to the brutal treatment, there are always deaths. This is not acceptable. If horses need to be removed, and I am not saying that they do, why not employ the talents of humane, professionally trained trail men and women who actually care about the health and well being of these animals, and not the money/politics attached to them.The use of helicopters, etc is not acceptable. I see a lot of cruelty in this plan that I feel needs to be mitigated out.

  8. Marion Glennon says:

    It seems that the comments here question your motivations in your plans to control the wild horses and burros for the future. I think it would be helpful to explain your plans in more depth than what you have set down here, so that the public would understand it more fully. It is the taxpayers monies that will be financing any solutions that your plans will implement. So I think the taxpayers should understand more about your plans will accomplish. I would not to see the farmers and ranchers set the agenda here because they will only be looking out for their own agenda, not the wild horses and burros.

  9. Kim Sheppard says:

    Based on this FAQ document, I’m looking for answers to the below questions. Thank you.

    1) Given the arbitrary AML adjustments waged against wild equines vs what is calculated for grazing animals, what is the predicted amount of “Excess” equine animals to be rounded up annually for next decade?

    2) Is this figure only in BLM Herd Management Areas or USFS Wild Horse Territories?

    3) Because they are migratory animals, (Or for other reasons), could it include removals *outside of those areas. AND will those wild horses and burros still be removed without animal welfare protections of any kind? Or will you strive to protect them too?

    4) Will any more humane gather methods with different contractors be implemented?

    5) What criteria will be met for wild horses to go to Off Range Pastures?

    6) What will happen to horses and burros currently in Short Term and Long Term Holding?

    7) A Q&A for Vendor Proposal from a few years ago indicated burros typically do *not go to Off Range Pastures and that horses over 10 years of age “may”,
    (not “will”) live their natural lives in the off range settings. What will change on that and how can burros’ safety (from a humane perspective), as well as horses over 10 years of age (Burns Amendment of 2004 stipulations), be protected from being removed out of those off range pastures to make room for all of the incoming removed horses?

    8)Given the large amount of titled horses we are currently seeing in kill pens, how do you propose the adoption process can realistically be any different than it currently is, in order to give these animals a better shot at long term/lifetime safety once adopted?

    9) What form(s) of fertility control will be utilized, along with PZP? And since BLM has claimed the fertility control was not successful because they could not find the horses to administer it, what will change in order to ensure success?

    10) What is the projected annual population growth percentages with the proper use of PZP fertility control in these vast range settings, where some horses may not be treated? Will horses be rounded up and then released after PZP is administered and meticulously documented?

    11) Will it include gelding stallions or spaying mares?

    12) What is the projected annual budget for this plan? Who all is funding it and who is being paid?

    Note: It is noted that the use of Spayvac/Gonacon on the wild, free roaming horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park appears to be sterilizing the mares, in addition to suppressing their natural hormonal behaviors (according to Blake McCann, Wild Horse Program Manager, whom I spoke with in 2017). While I realize those particular horses are not managed under the Wild, Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, this is important to note, due to the management to extinction potential with inappropriate or misused fertility control.

  10. Rebecca Black says:

    Let the animals LIVE!!!

  11. Anne Barton says:

    It appears that the HSUS is agreeing to a plan that includes cruel roundups and some methods of birth control that are likely to be lethal to mares. The FAQs are presented in a way that obfuscates these issues. This is a big mistake.

  12. Billita Jacobsen says:

    You continue to sell out the animals, it is shameful. I will never donate to HSUS again. The wild horses are one example–I witnessed HSUS working WITH the Illinois Trappers Association on “behalf” of bobcats. It resulted in more permits being issued to KILL bobcats! You could be a real force for positive change for the animals but you seem to want to work with those who harm animals.

    • Judy Lane says:

      Agree Billita. Part of agreement never discusses 50 to 1 ratio cows to horses on the range. Leave the horses, remove the cows to pens and holding areas, as in Texas. 25,000 cows in one area. Cows do not mind.

  13. Adriana Catlett says:

    I wanted to believe your were instrumental towards finding a solution. However from reading the American Wild Horse website, I believe you made a deal with the devil and sold us out. You made a deal with Cattlement lobbyist and do you expect there to be trust? You say there is no lethal managing the horses and sterilization will be humane. However you do not say that you an the other advocacy groups that signed with you will manage, and oversee the BLM. Some recent articles show that there is little to trust when it comes to management of wild horses.

    You weakened the position of every horse advocacy group on every issue of managing wild horses. What is your answer to the below articles on continued slaughter of wild horses?

    1) Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News May 9, 2019
    SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge urged the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday to work out a deal with animal rights activists who claim a plan to shrink the glut of wild horses in a Northern California forest will cause some horses to get slaughtered.
    After umpiring 90 minutes of debate on whether a decision to sell horses rounded up in Modoc National Forest “without limitations” was a policy change that requires an explanation and environmental review, Donato seized upon what he called a “breakthrough moment.”

    2)May 2019 – Amercian Wildhorse website
    The plan by the Forest Service — announced last fall – to sell wild horses captured from the Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory in the Modoc National Forest near Alturas California for slaughter has provoked widespread public outrage and opposition from California political leaders

    3) San Francisco, CA (May 9, 2019). . . U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in San Francisco today continued the stipulated prohibition preventing the Forest Service from selling federally-protected wild horses without limitation on slaughter.
    In court today, attorneys representing the U.S. Forest Service claimed that the Service will not sell horses for slaughter for human consumption, but will sell them for slaughter for other purposes such as to feed to zoo animals and for use as “bucking stock” in rodeos (presumably followed by slaughter, since the Forest Service is considering bucking stock in the “sales without limitation on slaughter” category). Attorneys for a group of ranchers and county officials who intervened in the lawsuit made clear that the Forest Service intends to use slaughter as a disposal mechanism in order to round up over a thousand more wild horses in order to make room on the public lands in the Modoc National Forest for more cattle grazing.

  14. Charity. Renos mom says:

    Ok let’s think about this logically…. Are there too many prey animals in general YES why because we are slaughtering to many predators meant to keep those populations in check. Why? Because of cattle sheep etc…. If we leave well enough alone no issues! Instead…. “Humanely sterilize” the mustang term not the answer! You will weaken the genetic diversity and cause some awful things and leave thousands of others cruelly locked in holding pens. Come on leave mother nature alone she knows what she is doing!!! *** for the record I keep and share my life with a mustang***

  15. Randolph Smith says:

    I am compelled to comment by love of equine that has been instilled by them as I have read the Humane society encourages us to discussion on this matter of management,thus a brain storming of thoughts an ideas of resolution is needed to assist those whom are in charge of change.
    Let us all convey our thoughts of resolution to the humane society for there encouragement and support to serve our purpose of quality of life of equine roaming around public lands that we all have paid our taxes so they can ,not just a chosen few. I don’t waste my time on thought of what is not getting done or complain about it ,as that is mainly what I have read.

  16. Debby says:

    I think that ranchers that have cattle keep them on their property not on government property that is meant for the horses and if someone is approved for a horse give to them instead of selling it to them until the herds get smaller

  17. Linda Kemp says:

    Linda Kemp Horrific Roundups where foals are run until their hooves fall off and wild horses into barb air. Deaths from the round ups are just part of it. Native Wild Horses suffer organ damage and many die months after the roundup but this is only the beginning. All stallions are gelding and many die from the infection that occur and the mares are now subject to cruel experiments where their suffering and death rates aren’t recorded for the public. ALL families are split up and the wild horses suffer horrific stress from the lose of their family unit. And then they are placed in holding pens where their freedom is loss forever. Every one of these abuses to our native wild horses is listed in Humane Society explanation of animal abuse so why are they proposing this abuse????

  18. Vickery Eckhoff says:

    Why no mention of public lands ranching program that is not just getting rid of wild horses, but wolves, grizzlies, other predators, endangered species, and despoiling the 89% and upward of Western public lands? Is HSUS under some kind of agreement to remain silent while the livestock industry bilks the public, or does it simply not know this is going on?

    EIther way, leadership on an issue requires transparency and accountability. If HSUS can’t be counted on to address public lands ranching, you can kiss public lands and all the endangered critters on it goodbye.

    • Vickery Eckhoff says:

      Sorry, incomplete comment: the 89% of public lands that are cattle/sheep only with no wild horses on them whatsoever.

  19. Nancy Marie Glaviano.avipa says:

    Save. All. Wild. Horses. And donkeys too. I out in the inland empire Ca. We. Have. Wild donkeys. And Bob cats out here.

  20. J Kaminen says:

    And what happened to your support of HR961? To pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act. Horses are still being shipped for slaughter and human meat consumption in Canada and Mexico. Huge numbers of mustangs are suffering in kill pens all over the U.S. How long does it take to work with Congress to get this bill passed?

  21. Barbara M Flores says:

    So how’s that working out for you? Thousands of wild horses have been removed in the last year and still almost no PZP is being used. Congress has given BLM virtually no funds for contraception but has increased funding for removals. HSUS and ASPCA are in league with the devil. The only thing BLM and the welfare ranchers want is for the wild horses and burros to be gone.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.