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.
Looking Ahead 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.
On your mark, get set, go orange! One of the ASPCA's most important events is the celebration of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Each year, we urge supporters across the country to Go Orange for Animals throughout April—the month in 1866 when the ASPCA's charter was signed—to raise awareness for our cause.
Go ahead, visit the special Go Orange section of our website to see how you can get involved in the celebration. From creating grassroots fundraising events to entering our latest online photo contest to outfitting yourself and your furry friends with the finest orange designs —the possibilities are endless!
Join us for April's Go Orange for Animals campaign—together we can improve the lives of animals in every corner of the country. Go Orange! Glow Orange! Show Orange for Animals!
"It's hard to watch these poor animals running for their lives for people who could really care less if they live," said Dr. Margaret Ohlinger, a track veterinarian at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack in upstate New York. – New York Times, March 25, 2012
We've known for a long time that the horse racing industry is in serious need of reform. For horses who do not win, auction and slaughter for human consumption overseas has been an all too easy outlet for an industry obsessed with the pursuit of cash winnings at all costs. The ASPCA has focused on passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, but last year, we met with the authors of the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act and heard about the rampant use of drugs to mask pain in racehorses, so we endorsed their legislation to curb this abuse.
This past Sunday's edition of The New York Times provided a disturbing reminder of how very necessary and overdue this legislation is. The Times published a shocking exposé, "Death and Disarray at America's Racetracks," documenting its investigation into racehorse doping and the sharp rise in deaths and injuries to horses and riders.
The article details the rampant use of drugs—how "trainers experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including chemicals that bulk up pigs and cattle before slaughter, cobra venom, Viagra, blood doping agents, stimulants and cancer drugs." The result? The catastrophic deaths of thousands of racehorses. Horses pushed beyond their limits by steroids, stimulants or pain-killing drugs that enabled them to run through injuries up to the point of collapse.
Though the horse racing industry has long promised to restrict the use of performance-enhancing drugs, such voluntary measures have been largely ignored. The worst offenders can easily circumvent the current patchwork of state horse commission rules by moving their operations. Lax or nonexistent oversight allows, and encourages, the use of any means possible—even cruel, life-threatening means—to win races.
"How on earth did we get to this sorry state?" Mr. Strawbridge [prominent breeder and owner] said. "The first reason is that in this country there are no significant consequences for doping horses."
Self-regulation by local horse racing commissions has failed to protect horses and jockeys from rampant drug use. And, the tragic toll on horses and riders is exacerbated at "racinos" (casinos with horse tracks) where there appears to be an even greater disregard for safety.
H.R. 1733/S. 886, introduced by Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Ben Chandler (D-KY) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), would prohibit racing any horse found to be under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs and institute a "three strikes" penalty system.
Take Action Please take action now and ask that your U.S. representative and senators cosponsor the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act. You can contact your Members of Congress at the ASPCA Online Advocacy Center. Until a federal ban on performance-enhancing drugs in racehorses is the law of the land, the lives of thousands more horses and jockeys will be at risk.
Hey, folks, are you ready to go orange for animals? April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month—and one of the best ways you can show your support is by decking out in some orange gear!
Lacking in tangerine threads? No worries, our online store’s got you covered! Plus, by shopping at the ASPCA Online Store, your purchase actually helps us fight animal cruelty. All proceeds go towards ending puppy mill cruelty, busting dog fighting rings and rescuing abused animals across the country!
So what are you waiting for? Right now take 25-50% off all Go Orange products! Orders of $25 or more come with a free ASPCA bumper sticker, and orders of $40 or more come with a free paw-print bandana.
Awesome news! Last week, as we marked the 50th anniversary of National Poison Prevention Week (March 18-24), the ASPCA also congratulated Representatives John Campbell (R-California) and Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) for introducing H.R. 4214—legislation that will protect pets and wildlife from Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide.
Already banned in several states, these deadly chemicals are still used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency to kill wildlife considered nuisances by ranchers and landowners. However, unattended traps often expose serious risks to pets and humans.
Compound 1080 is an extremely lethal poison with no antidote. After its misuse led to many human deaths in the 1950s and 1960s, the Environmental Protection Agency banned it. Unfortunately, after intensive lobbying from the livestock industry, the poison was re-approved in the 1980s for use in "Livestock Protection Collars," devices worn by sheep and other livestock that release the poison when punctured by wild predators.
M-44 devices are traps that release a deadly dose of sodium cyanide when an animal makes contact with the device. Often left unmarked, these devices endanger roaming pets. Just last year in Texas, a pet dog named Bella was killed by an M-44 device containing sodium cyanide set by Wildlife Services less than a mile from her family’s home.
"Compound 1080 and M-44 sodium cyanide capsules are lethal, dangerous and unnecessary poisons," says Representative DeFazio. "I am pleased to support this legislation, which would halt the use of these needlessly dangerous poisons permanently."