Congress Advances Promising New Strategy for Wild Horses and Burros

May 22, 2019

Wild horses

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took a critical first step toward a desperately needed overhaul of the federal government’s wild horse and burro management program.

The powerful Appropriations Committee approved language in its fiscal year 2020 (FY20) Interior Appropriations bill directing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency charged with the care of these majestic animals, to implement the non-lethal management proposal championed by the ASPCA and other humane groups. The bill allocates an additional $6 million to the BLM to develop a science-based management plan that combines increased and vigorously applied fertility control on the range with strategic gathers from the most densely populated herds.

It’s noteworthy that the language includes “science-based fertility control” and doesn’t refer to surgical sterilization. It requires the BLM to relocate horses from overcrowded corrals to larger pastures, and to increase adoptions of wild horses and burros to good homes. The bill also includes protective language that would preclude the BLM and, for the first time, the U.S. Forest Service from killing healthy wild horses and burros or selling them for slaughter.

The Committee specifically instructs the BLM to adhere to humane guidelines set out in the agency’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program for each horse removed from the range. This is the first time that Congress has issued such a clear and crucial directive, which would further protect horses and burros during gathers and off the range. Additionally, the bill requires that private parties caring for wild horses and burros must provide documented proof of humane conditions and protection from abuse, neglect and slaughter. Lastly, it instructs the agency to present a plan encompassing all of these protections and on-range management strategies, and then to report quarterly on its progress.

This sea change in wild horse and burro management would end an era of dependency on mass removals of horses and burros from the range and the warehousing of these iconic equines in holding facilities off the range. It marks the beginning of genuine on-range management achieved with fertility control, which is the only effective way to provide lasting protections for wild horses and burros. Best of all, the non-lethal requirements are front and center, emphasizing the most historic aspect of the proposal that the ASPCA helped craft and worked hard to secure buy-in from with groups traditionally opposed to wild horse protection.

We are grateful to Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum (D-MN) and the Committee for including this landmark language. This game-changing moment marks the beginning of a new way forward for humanely managing our wild herds on BLM lands, and we will continue to advocate for the humane treatment of wild horses and burros at each step of the way.

Members of Congress need to hear from serious and passionate advocates like you encouraging them to include robust funding in the final FY20 Interior spending legislation. Allowing the agency to continue down the misguided road it has been on for decades would be disastrous for our beloved herds. All of us who genuinely care about their future must act: Visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center now to quickly and easily contact your lawmakers on behalf of wild horses.