ASPCA Supports New Study on Management of Wild Horses in the U.S.

National Academy of Sciences recommends on-range management of wild horses
June 6, 2013

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has announced its support of the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) study that was released today, which identifies ways the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can modify its program to manage sustainable populations of wild horses on public lands. The study takes note of several key findings, concluding "it is clear that the status quo of continually removing free-ranging horses and then maintaining them in long-term holding facilities, with no foreseeable end in sight, is both economically unsustainable and discordant with public expectations."

The ASPCA, along with other animal and equine welfare organizations, has been urging the BLM to rethink its counterproductive and costly approach for many years, identifying the need for on-range management techniques in lieu of constant round up and removals. Rather than aggressively implement on-range management, the BLM has relied heavily on removal as the way to keep herd numbers in check, stockpiling these horses in large pens and using greater percentages of its budget annually for their maintenance. Birth control, reintroduction of horses to habitats they once roamed, and sanctuary designations are viable options but have been ignored or underutilized. The NAS study indicates that the on-range methods are the most cost-effective and efficient, suggesting that it is time for the agency to shift its focus to these strategies.

"It is time for a new focus that allows our treasured wild horses to remain in their native habitat and where they can live without the disruption and cruelties associated with the round-up and removal policies of the past," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "The NAS study shows that cost-effective, humane alternatives to ripping apart family units and taming the spirits of these majestic wild horses exist today and they can be implemented immediately."

The study makes several important findings:

  • Roundups and removals have exacerbated, not eased, wild horse population growth
  • Rangelands are below carrying capacity for wild horse populations
  • There is no indication that wild horse populations have caused irreversible damage to rangelands
  • There are viable fertility control methods for managing wild horse population numbers that serve as preferable, less-disruptive alternatives to removal and relocation to long-term holding facilities
  • Methods used for calculating, monitoring, and managing wild horse populations are not transparent and do not instill public confidence
  • The BLM must move away from a short-term view, which is expensive and unsustainable, to look at a long-term approach that is more affordable and sustainable than removal to long-term facilities

Additionally, the study found that there is no political support for the killing of unadopted, stockpiled horses; that rangelands could stabilize and come into equilibrium with wild horse populations; and that the BLM must include the public in its policy-making decisions.

"Wild horses occupy a special place in our country's history, and they deserve to be protected," added Perry. "This study confirms the desire of Americans to honor these animals; we look forward to the implementation of a more compassionate approach for managing this beloved species."

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was passed to protect wild horses and burros from capture, and preserve the land they inhabit. More than 19 million acres originally designated for wild horses have slowly been whittled away for cattle grazing, making horses the target for removal. The use of helicopters to run the terrified horses over miles of rangeland has resulted in serious injuries and several deaths.

The ASPCA has an extensive history of equine protection around the country and continues to assist both domestic and wild horses through legislation, advocacy and targeted grants. For more information on the ASPCA’s efforts to protect and aid horses, please visit To join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, please visit