Guest blog post from Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Government Relations.
Did you know that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the federal agency in charge of protecting our country’s wild horses and burros? Enacted more than 40 years ago, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act states that the federal government is required to protect wild horses while balancing their presence on rangelands with commercial activities of humans and the needs of other wildlife.
Unfortunately, in the 40 years that the BLM has been managing our wild horses, we have seen a continuous cycle of roundups and removals with little regard for the welfare of these living creatures.
Taking Action on Capitol Hill
I was recently invited to testify before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and the Environment to discuss the importance of protecting wild horses.
My testimony focused on four main requests. We asked the committee to 1) reinstate language to prevent the sale for slaughter and mass euthanasia of wild horses, 2) prohibit removal of more horses and burros than can be adopted, 3) prioritize on-range management of wild horses and burros, and 4) require the swift creation of standard operating procedures for humane, transparent roundups, if any are to occur.
As I spoke to the committee, I could see their obvious disgust at the descriptions I provided of recent roundups, during which:
- Foals were forced to run extreme distances, losing their hooves.
- Horses were driven to physical exhaustion.
- Horses and burros were physically assaulted with helicopter skids.
- Electric prods were used on wild horses by BLM staff or contractors.
- Horses were kicked and beaten with lunge whips.
- Metal gates and panels were slammed into horses.
- Horses' tails were twisted and pulled during loading.
Congress oversees federal agencies to ensure that government services are delivered appropriately and fairly, and it can direct agencies like the BLM to reform programs that are not working as they should. The BLM has indicated a willingness to examine parts of its wild horse program and we hope they will work with us to make needed changes.
For now, we are encouraged that both the BLM and Congress are open to input from the ASPCA and other animal protection organizations regarding the plight of these majestic animals.
Learn more about our efforts to protect equines.