In a historic milestone for America’s iconic wild horses and burros, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Government Relations Nancy Perry testified this week before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining about the path forward to humane and sustainable management of these beloved animals.
In her remarks, Perry established the ASPCA’s commitment to wild horse and burro protection through non-lethal methods and the need to move forward with preventative management now. She emphasized that shifting to on-range management and phasing out the costly off-range holding program would enable the responsible government agency, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to be proactive rather than reactive in maintaining wild horses and burros on public lands. Legislators of all political persuasions responded positively to the new strategy.
“In order to truly protect horses, we need this program to shift away from a reactive approach to a proactive one,” said Perry. “A proactive strategy, using existing fertility control methods, would enable the BLM to phase out the costly and harmful cycle of large-scale roundups and removals that has led to imbalance and an unsustainable situation.”
While wild horse and burro management is important to Americans, who recognize these animals as protected symbols of the American West and an integral part of our cultural heritage, no Senate committee had held a hearing on the issue in 15 years.
Earlier this year the ASPCA, along with a coalition of animal welfare, wild horse advocacy, and range management stakeholders, put forward a proposal that would transform the BLM’s wild horse and burro program. The goal is to stop its costly policy of removing and warehousing horses, turning instead toward an on-range management strategy that emphasizes fertility control and takes any proposed lethal solution off the table. These animals cannot be protected under current policies and they are in grave danger of political shifting winds trending back toward lethal recommendations in coming years. Real protections must be adopted, or ultimately these horses and burros will pay for our failure with their lives.
Each component of the proposal—from widespread implementation of fertility control, short-term removal and relocation of horses to life-long pasture facilities, and increased adoptions—could be instituted now if Congressional appropriators would include the agreed-upon protections and mandate necessary funding in the BLM’s FY 2020 budget. The proposal also mandates protections during all handling and holding—a necessary element of securing better welfare for these animals. It further demands that all killing for population control and sales for slaughter be ruled out, ensuring that the agency won’t use lethal means as an escape hatch to avoid on-range management.
Redirecting this program is a long-term process that will require additional, sustained resources, and this hearing was an essential step in the journey—but we need your help! Legislators need to hear from you, their constituents, that funding a humane and sustainable management plan that will protect wild horses and burros is important. Contact your members of Congress now.