Animal Welfare Institute Condemns BLM Proposal to Kill Thousands of Wild Horses in Holding Facilities

Washington, DC—For the first time in the history of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—the federal agency charged with protecting and managing wild horses in the United States—officials now claim that up to 30,000 horses currently in confinement may have to be "euthanized" to balance the agency’s budget.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) vehemently opposes any proposal that would sanction the mass killing of our nation’s wild horses. "To set the record straight, euthanasia is mercy killing. That’s certainly not what’s being proposed here by any stretch of the imagination," said Chris Heyde, deputy director of government and legal affairs for AWI. "It's killing pure and simple to balance the books for an agency whose reckless management has caused immeasurable harm to a national treasure at considerable cost to the American taxpayer."

In the last few years, the BLM’s national wild horse and burro program has changed leadership and direction—and tragically, wild horses have paid the price. To placate the demands of livestock interests and despite protests from wild horse advocates, the agency began rounding up animals from the wild at an unprecedented rate, leaving many herds with so few animals that their long-term health and viability are now in serious jeopardy.

Adoption demand could not keep pace with such drastic removals, requiring the BLM to contract for more and more private long-term holding facilities. Today, this misguided policy has shockingly resulted in more animals being held in confinement than run free in the wild. Now, BLM officials are seeking a magic bullet for the problem that they have irresponsibly created—adding a whole new subtext to the expression "They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?"

The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed unanimously by Congress to stop the mass slaughter and commercial exploitation of these magnificent animals. "Americans were outraged to learn what was happening then, and they will be even more irate to learn what the BLM is proposing today," Heyde said. "Public support for the original Act is considered one of the largest grassroots campaigns on animal welfare issues in US history. It is time to reignite this passion if we are to save these magnificent animals from extinction on the range and in the wild."

The proposal to resume killing the public’s wild horses will be discussed at the next National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting scheduled for September 2008. AWI encourages the public and the US Congress to act swiftly to protect our horses, whose lives are at risk at the hands of the very agency tasked with the responsibility to care for them.