BLM Approves Surgical Sterilization Experiments on Oregon’s Wild Horses

Photof rom Flickr by Paul Gorbould
Photof rom Flickr by Paul Gorbould

Animal Welfare Groups Weigh Legal Action to Stop Invasive and Dangerous Surgeries

Washington, DC—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Burns District Office in Oregon announced Wednesday night that it will begin controversial experiments to remove the ovaries of wild mares next month. The federal agency reached this decision despite opposition from the public and veterinarians, a warning from the National Academy of Sciences that the procedure was “inadvisable” due to health risks, and the withdrawal of two major research institutions—Colorado State University and Oregon State University—from the project.

In response, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) are evaluating all possible means to stop the experiments, including litigation. The organizations are working closely with The Cloud Foundation (TCF), whose executive director, Ginger Kathrens, is the humane representative on the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.

“The National Academy of Sciences itself warned against the risky surgeries that the BLM wants to perform on innocent and federally protected wild mustangs,” said Brieanah Schwartz, government relations and policy counsel for AWHC. “The fact that the BLM has chosen to move forward with these archaic, dangerous and inhumane procedures demonstrates how far removed the agency is from sound, scientific, evidence-based decision-making.”

“This proposal is especially unconscionable considering a humane method of population control is available through the use of the proven PZP birth control vaccine,” Schwartz continued, “but the BLM continues to vastly underutilize it.”

“If they live through the surgery, mares that undergo this type of spay procedure will appear to be permanently in heat, and will therefore endure constant sexual advances from males,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of TCF. “This is too gruesome to even contemplate.”

Bowing to public pressure, Colorado State University pulled out of the BLM’s planned surgical sterilization study last month. In 2016, Oregon State University withdrew from its BLM partnership after protests and legal challenges from wild horse advocacy groups. In joint comments submitted this summer to the BLM, AWHC and AWI recommended that the agency implement a comprehensive on-the-range management program in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area.

Instead, the BLM now plans to start rounding up 100 percent of the wild horses in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in early October. An estimated 685 horses will be permanently removed and another 100 mares will be surgically sterilized. (More details on the BLM’s plan can be found here.)

“The BLM’s decision to move forward with inhumane, unproven and potentially life-threatening surgical experiments on federally protected wild horses is an affront to the many Americans who value and cherish these animals on our public lands,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., AWI’s equine program manager. “We had hoped that the BLM would heed the advice of numerous experts that had warned against performing ovariectomies on wild horses, including pregnant mares that could lose their foals as a result of this heinous procedure.”

The groups are working with one of the nation’s top public interest and environmental law firms, Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks.

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is a national wild horse advocacy organization whose grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit

The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, that grew out of Executive Director Ginger Kathrens' knowledge and fear for wild horses in the West. TCF works to educate the public about the natural free-roaming behavior and social structure of wild horses and the threats to wild horse and burro society, to encourage the public to speak out for their protection on their home ranges, and to support only humane management measures. Kathrens serves as the Humane Advisor on BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.