By Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO
Today the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee made groundbreaking progress for equines by approving a $35 million increase in funding to implement a historic proposal that will protect and humanely manage wild horses and burros on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands.
The proposal, unveiled by the ASPCA along with a diverse group of stakeholders, is the only tangible plan provided to Congress or the BLM to humanely manage wild horses and burros on our public lands. Absent this vision, political support for protecting these herds was eroding. We knew action was needed, or their future was bleak. Our proposed model offers the first real hope for setting the agency on a better course.
The ASPCA is firmly committed to the idea that we must maintain our wild horse and burro herds on the range where they belong and where we hope they will roam forever, but this vision requires thinking and acting preventatively versus continuing to endlessly round up and warehouse these equines. Consistent with that vision, the Senate Appropriations bill released today is very specific, mandating that all removals “must be conducted in strict compliance with the Bureau’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program and any population growth suppression strategies must be proven, safe, and humane.”
The bill also clarifies that the strategy “will not include any sale or actions that result in the destruction of healthy animals, which continues to be prohibited by this Bill.”
While this ambitious goal will take several years to establish on the range, once implemented, it will forever break the program’s dependency on removals by balancing herd numbers and using adoptions, rather than pens, to absorb horses taken from the range. This is a historic moment for our herds as this funding comes with the strongest language protecting wild horses and burros we have ever seen in an annual appropriations bill.
We are heartened that both the U.S. House and Senate have embraced our vision by adopting this humane management plan, by providing robust funding for implementation, and by incorporating specific protections we have long sought for these animals. Each chamber has dramatically increased their commitments to protect these iconic animals from killing or sale to slaughter—extending protections to herds on U.S. Forest Service land and demanding that the BLM adhere to the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program during all gathers.
Senate Committee approval of this legislation is a crucial step in the right direction, but it still needs approval by the full Congress. Please let your federal legislators know you want a sensible, humane management plan for America’s wild horses and burros.