U.S. House Reaffirms Commitment to Protecting Wild Horses and Burros

July 10, 2020

Wild horses

Today, we’re happy to share that the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations maintained critical protections for wild horses and burros in the FY21 Interior Appropriations bill. The approved language continues to call for more responsible and humane herd management by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  

Although the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act outlines strong federal protections for these iconic animals, each year they face the risk of being sold to slaughter or killed for population control. The committee helped to ensure that herds living on U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands will be protected for another year. 

The only permanent way to truly protect wild horses and burros is through sustained, humane management. For too long, the BLM has removed horses and burros from the range to control the population, rather than using available fertility control tools. Because of this disastrous strategy, a huge number of horses and burros live in federal off-range holding facilities—as well as larger herds on the range. To neutralize the growing threats to wild herds, the ASPCA and a diverse group of stakeholders endorse a proposal that focuses on more humane fertility control technologies to safely balance the population.

In response to our work, Congress allocated in the FY20 Interior Appropriations bill an additional $21 million to the Wild Horse and Burro Program and directed the agency to build a sustainable, non-lethal management program. Although support from outside stakeholders and Congress is important, the BLM bears the ultimate responsibility for protecting our iconic herds. Congress underscored this by conditioning the release of those additional funds on the BLM’s submission of a report detailing its plan to significantly shift its management strategy.

The BLM produced this report in May 2020, after Congress requested it in two consecutive fiscal years. The report was late and far from perfect—but it doesn’t request authority to use lethal population control methods, and it appears to follow a general framework similar to the ASPCA-endorsed proposal, including the potential increased use of fertility control over time. 

This year, the House Committee on Appropriations maintained the funding increase for the Wild Horse and Burro Program and provided an encouraging note in their accompanying report: “The Committee looks forward to working with the Bureau and the Senate as the appropriations process moves forward and fully expects to reach a successful outcome in terms of funding and implementation.”

Although this federal program still has a long way to go, we are encouraged that lawmakers continue to forge a brighter future for our nation’s iconic herds. 

You can help build this momentum by joining the ASPCA’s Horse Action Team to continue fighting for our nation’s wild horses and burros!