SAPL: Horse Protection Readdressed by Legislation

Time after time, animal advocates suffer the indignity of watching the legislative machinations of the US government undermine animal protection.

When Congress returned from its election-week break, they considered the “Omnibus” spending bill—a massive federal funding package spanning thousands of pages and doling out nearly $400 billion. Members of Congress often use this sizable bill to fund pet projects that benefit their states or other constituencies.

However, with little notice and nofanfare, legislation to remove national protection for migratory birds not native to the United States was surreptitiously added to the bill. As a result, nearly 100 species of birds—many in dire need of protection—could be killed.

In perhaps the biggest slap in the face to animal advocates, Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) attached a controversial rider to the bill that eliminates the prohibition on killing wild horses, undermining more than 30 years of horse protection under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Wild horses, magnificent symbols of the American West, will now be available for slaughter, if they are ten years and older or have not been adopted after three attempts.

It is a misguided perception that a proliferation of wild horses pressures the remaining lands on which they have historically thrived. Increasing human development and consumption of lands for cattle grazing have greater impact.

At the very least, the American people deserve better than to have such decisions slipped into spending bills, bypassing the democratic deliberations of the full legislature.

Senator Burns’ home-state newspaper, The Missoulian, opined: “Burns’ amendment… and especially the manner in which it was legislated is earning Burns a well-deserved verbal horse-whipping in the national press. The state made famous for its wanton slaughter of Yellowstone National Park’s has a senator who wants to feed enduring symbols of the Wild West to Frenchmen.”

Fortunately, two bills to protect horses from butchering have been introduced in the 109th Congress. In response to the devastating Burns rider, Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) have introduced bill H.R. 297 to restore language preventing wild horses from being sold into slaughter.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, H.R. 503, has been reintroduced by Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY), Congressman John Spratt (D-SC) and Congressman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). This all-encompassing bill will protect both wild and domestic horses from slaughter and live export for human consumption.

Please write your Representative and both Senators asking him or her to cosponsor these vital bills. To find your legislator or learn more about both bills, please visit

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