Wild Horses in Short Term Holding – a Target for Slaughter
After the proposal to experiment on sterilizing wild mares at the Burns BLM Facility in Oregon, I wondered how the situation facing our wild horses could be come more dire. Now there is news about the Bureau of Land Management’s Budget Proposal for 2017. In this proposal, there is a clause that would remove the protection for wild horses and burros from being sent to slaughter.
Here is Section 110 of the President’s Interior Budget Request:
TRANSFER OF EXCESS ANIMALS SEC. 110. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of the Interior may transfer excess wild horses or burros that have been removed from the public lands to other Federal, State, and local government agencies for use as work animals: Provided, That the Secretary may make any such transfer immediately upon request of such Federal, State, or local government agency: Provided further, That any excess animal transferred under this provision shall lose its status as a wild free-roaming horse or burro as defined in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. You can look at the whole document here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2017/assets/int.pdf
This extremely disturbing proposed change to the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act puts thousands of our wild horses held captive in Short and Long Term Holding by the BLM at risk of getting sent to slaughter. The BLM may say that this is to expedite the transfer of horses to other agencies that might have jobs for the horses, but in actual fact, stripping the protection of the Act from the horses makes them a target for slaughter, with no over site, and no responsibility taken by the BLM. Remember the 1794 wild horses sold under the sale Authority Act, without limitation, to Tom Davis that ended up at slaughter?
Given that state and local authorities in many states have repeatedly called for the slaughter of wild horses in holding facilities, it is easy to see that once transferred to the states and other agencies, they will in fact be sold for slaughter. This becomes a convenient way for the BLM to get rid of some of its “wild horse problem” – those pesky “excess horses” whose care absorbs so much of the BLM’s budget.
But the American people do not want the slaughter of our wild horses – the vast majority would like to see wild horses remain wild and free on our public lands, and managed on the range, not rounded up with helicopters, warehoused in holding facilities, and secretly shipped off to slaughter.
Another section of this budget includes the BLM’s “Budget in Brief” which indicates a priority for the BLM in the coming year will be to continue to carry out dangerous and cruel experimental sterilization methods on our wild horses. “The BLM will also continue expanding the use of contraceptives and the application of spay and neuter to begin to reduce program costs and help address the unsustainable proliferation of wild horses and burros on public lands.”
The American public would like to see wild horses and burros managed humanely, not experimented upon and sterilized.
As far as “unsustainable proliferation of wild horses” – the simple facts are that wild horses are in only 12 percent of our public lands, and there are currently more wild horses that are captive in holding facilities than on the range. Their numbers are completely dwarfed by the vast amounts of livestock that graze on these same public lands.
The news is not good, but at least now we have the ulterior motives of the BLM laid out in the budget: Opening the door to slaughtering wild horses and burros, sterilizing herds of wild horses and burros without regard to their sustainability, welfare, and continued presence on our public lands.
“We were about to post the BLM’s latest propoganda and lie-fest when Grandma Gregg sent an email that lit me up. Instead of posting her comment after the article we are using it as a ‘forward’ to the idiot article, it’s just too much…so Grandma, tell us what you think and take it away…!” ~ R.T.
FYI although BLM has claimed that the 1971 population was about 25,345 they FAIL to include the over 70,229 wild horses and burros that were “claimed” by anyone who wanted to round them up from 1971 to 1979. These would be “mustangers” in the truest form of the word and these WH&B would have gone to slaughter – i.e. sold by the pound. And these over 70 thousand are ONLY the ones that were reported and I don’t think anyone familiar with the wild horse and burro issue would disagree that many many many others would have been captured by mustangers and NOT “reported”.
So although we will never know the exact population of WH&B on the day the 1971 Act was passed there is no way in ‘ell you can convince me that it was 25,345 and that those other over 70 thousand were already owned by the people who captured them. No way. I personally have no problem believing that the true wild horse and burro population in 1971 was well over 100,000 and they were not over grazing their lands. The domestic private/corporate livestock were over-grazing since there were many many many more of those on public lands (millions from what I can figure out (http://www.law.gonzaga.edu/law-review/files/2013/11/Coggins.pdf) but the wild horses and burros were not overgrazing their legal lands simply by comparing the numbers of WH&B versus the domestic private/corporate cattle and sheep.
And then we can ALSO talk about their unsupported and non-defensible annual population increases they puke all over us each year and on each and every EA.
Cindy Macdonald (American Herds) wrote a summary about this subject.
BLM seeks to expand initiatives to address problems with new legislative authority
46,000 Horses Already Being Cared for Off-Range
Off-Range Care of Unadopted Horses Would Exceed $1 Billion
Necessary Horse Gathers Exceed Available Space and Funding
The Bureau of Land Management announced today that as of March 1, 2016, more than 67,000 wild horses and burros are roaming Western public rangelands – a 15 percent increase over the estimated 2015 population.
The updated numbers show more than twice the number of horses on the range than is recommended under BLM land use plans. It is also two and a half times the number of horses and burros that were estimated to be in existence when the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971. To help address the problem, BLM is seeking legislative authority for additional initiatives.
“Over the past seven years we have doubled the amount of funding used for managing our nation’s wild horses and burros,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Despite this, major shifts in the adoption market and the absence of a long-term fertility control drug have driven population levels higher. A number of program reforms are underway, but assistance is needed from our local, state, and federal partners.”
While herds of wild horses consistently double in size every four years, there has also been a dramatic decrease in adoptions in recent years. In the early 2000s, nearly 8,000 horses were being placed with private adopters each year. Due to a number of economic factors, that number is now down to roughly 2,500 animals each year, compounding an already difficult management situation.
The total lifetime cost of caring for an unadopted animal that is removed from the range is substantial. Costs for lifetime care in a corral approaches $50,000 per horse. With 46,000 horses and burros already in off-range corrals and pastures, this means that without new opportunities for placing these animals with responsible owners, the BLM will spend more than a billion dollars to care for and feed these animals over the remainder of their lives. Given this vast financial commitment, the BLM is now severely limited in how many animals it can afford to remove from the range.
To address these issues the BLM is taking a number of steps, including sponsoring a significant research program focused on fertility control; transitioning horses from off-range corrals to more cost-effective pastures; working to increase adoptions with new programs and partnerships; and requesting two new pieces of legislative authority — one to allow for the immediate transfer of horses to other agencies that have a need for work animals and one that would create a congressionally-chartered foundation that could help fund and support adoption efforts. Additional tools and resources are needed to bring this program onto a sustainable path.
The table below shows the 2016 West-wide, on-range population on a state-by-state basis as of March 1, 2016. This year’s 15 percent increase over the 2015 population compares to an 18 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. The BLM plans to remove 3,500 wild horses and burros from Western public rangelands in 2016.
Wild Horse and Burro On-Range Population as of March 1, 2016
The first step he took out of his stall was the hardest.
Monty, a horse locked away in a filthy stall for years, did not seem to understand what was going on. He was hesitant and frightened about coming out of his makeshift prison, where the only attention he received was when his owner threw in some hay, food and water. His only friends were the flies that circled and landed on his gaunt frame.
Monty locked in his stall (Michelle Forster)
When his rescuer, Travis Underwood, first saw Monty, he didn’t know what to expect when he opened the gate.
Monty was one among many horses and dogs found on a 10-acre property in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the summer of 2014. Trisha Houlihan, founder and executive director of Saving Paws Rescue, AZ of Phoenix, had been alerted about neglected dogs on the property, Michelle Forster, a volunteer with the organization, told The Dodo.
(Photo: Michelle Forster)
The woman who owned the property, known only as Donna, had been left with animals after her husband died in the summer of 2014 after a long illness, and everything at the property went into disarray. “Her husband kept her isolated,” Forster said.
According to Forster, Donna’s husband had been breeding German shepherds and owned roughly 21 horses. The widow reached out because she needed homes for two of the dogs who had been severely neglected. When Forster did a courtesy call to check on the dogs and take photos, she had no idea she would find an animal hoarding situation in the process. However, the animals did have food, water and shelter, as required by Arizona law.
Due to the horrible conditions, Houlihan accompanied Forster on a subsequent visit to document the animals. She reached out to Underwood, a longtime volunteer with Saving Paws, for his assistance.
Travis gains Monty’s trust (Lisa Cramton)
Initially, Donna wanted to sell the horses, mainly Arabians and quarter horses. “But the market was saturated at the time,” Forster said. “Everyone was trying to get her to understand that the horses didn’t have the value that she originally thought.”
The horses had been badly bitten by flies, and they had not received any general care. They were not let out of their stalls, had not been exercised, and were denied hoof care, vet care and basic grooming. Although some of the horses were worth money on paper, most were not marketable because they had not been trained and were in bad condition.
I request that this letter be provided to all board members and also be included in the official minutes and the administrative record for the meeting. Thank you.
Re: National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Public Comment
I have heard people talk about the “elephant in the room” during BLM meetings and then ignore the REAL elephant in the room, which is that there are NO excess wild horses and burros on their congressionally designated legal lands.
Do not allow the BLM and USFS and Farm Bureau, the extractive and mining giants, hunting lobbyists and the domestic livestock grazing associations to pull the wool over your eyes. There are no excess wild horses and burros on their legally designated land.
Per the 1971 Congressional Wild Horse and Burro Act, the land is to be devoted PRINCIPALLY, although not exclusively, to the wild horses and wild burros’ welfare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept of public lands.
Definition of “principally”: First, highest, foremost in importance, rank, worth or degree, chief, mainly, largely, chiefly, especially, particularly, mostly, primarily, above all, predominantly, in the main, for the most part, first and foremost.
There is NO reason for these wild horse and burro removals and destruction procedures … because there are NO excess wild horses and burros on their legally designated land.
In 1971, when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, these animals were found roaming across 53,800,000 million acres. That amount of acreage could support more than about 250,000 wild horses and burros, but even after 22,200,000 acres were stolen from the American people by government agencies, the remaining 31,600,000 acres could support more than 100,000 wild horses and burros today.
It is currently independently estimated that less than 20,000 wild horses and burros are living on their legal land today and yet the government continues its aggressive removal and destructive management toward total wild horse and burro extermination.
There is NO reason for these wild horse and burro removals and destruction procedures because there are NO excess wild horses and burros on their legally designated land.
(It doesn’t look like Dr. Leon Pielstick has put on the sterile sleeve yet in the photo above.)
Below we’ve posted: 1) the comment Don Moore, DVM to BLM on their barbaric plan to sterilize wild mares. 2) the response to this from two National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board members – Sue McDonnell (NOT a vet) and Julie Weikel, DVM. 3) Dr, Don Moore’s response to their response.
Here is a copy of Dr. Don Moore’s original comment to the BLM regarding wild mare sterilization experimentation:
Attention Project Lead:
BLM stated it was “investing in a diverse portfolio of research projects to develop new, modern technologies and methods for wild horse and burro management”. BLM is looking to improve existing population growth suppression methods or develop new methods according to the environmental assessment. However, BLM does not need to investigate the safety and efficacy of three separate methods of surgical sterilization of wild horse mares. These three methods have been performed on domestic mares and discounted as a last and least preferred method to manage hormonal issues.
The three surgical procedures for permanent sterilization of mares described in the mare sterilization research project, ovariectomy via colopotomy, tubal ligation and hysteroscopically-guided laser ablation of the oviduct papilla all require certain pre-operative and post-operative considerations for aseptic surgical protocol and pain management. Pre-operative bloodwork and a thorough examination are always performed on the relatively few domestic mares which are spayed. Other options other than surgery are always considered first due to the risk involved with any of these procedures. Aseptic surgical protocol and pain management is the standard of care for each and every surgery or the performing veterinarian would undoubtedly be sued by the owner and reprimanded by the state veterinary board.
Wild mares will not have their surgeries performed in a sterile surgical suite. Their surgery will be performed in a non-sterile chute or standing in stocks at the local BLM facility without benefit of routine standard of care. Unlike domestic mares who are easily handled, the very handling of these wild mares presents additional pre-operative stressors, which cannot be mitigated.
BLM does not possess the statutory authority to treat America’s wild free roaming mares as research test subjects to perform surgeries which are not the standard of care for domestic mares.
Case in point, is a photograph of Dr. Leon Pielstick as he was beginning to perform a surgery attired in bibs used predominately for working cattle and performing the surgery with a non-sterile plastic sleeve that is used to pregnancy check cattle. This is not acceptable for a domestic mare, why wild mares? To learn this procedures has been performed on some of the Sheldon wild mares, undoubtedly in a similar manner, is gross negligence and inhumane on the part of the Department of Interior and the veterinarians who performed the surgery in less than aseptic conditions.
This type of trial and error butchery is a violation of the least feasible management clause of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
In private practice, colopotomy is considered an inferior procedure with likelihood of post-surgical infections and complications (i.e., colic) especially during these unsterile conditions. Post-operative care usually lasts several days to often weeks and mares are monitored and in most cases are monitored in box stalls or cross ties, which cannot be accomplished with wild mares. Post- operative bleeding is a situation which cannot be easily remedied even in domestic mares.
Standard of care for tubal ligation and/or ovariectomy is performed under aseptic conditions with a laparoscope and pain mitigation along with private confinement and treatment which can last days to weeks. Complications can also be colic, infection and pain mitigation is required.
Hysteroscopically guided laser ablation is not a preferred method by board certified equine surgeons because it is considered experimental even under the best of conditions. Field veterinarians and veterinary students are woefully inadequate to perform any of these surgeries, which in my opinion should only be done by board certified equine surgeons in appropriate surgical suites and with post- operative care performed by educated and expert staff in an equine veterinary hospital setting.
In recent conversations with Littleton Equine Medical Center veterinarians Scott Toppin, DVM, DABVP and Kelly Tisher DVM the following comments were made to me.
Dr. Toppin stated he had serious concerns about the dangerous and inhumane conditions under which these surgeries would be performed. He also stated concerns about the sterility of the procedure and pre and post-operative pain control.
Dr. Tisher shared that their practice equine surgeon, Dustin V. Devine DVM, MS DACVS, performs approximately six to twelve of these surgeries with a laparoscope annually. Littleton Equine is the leading equine veterinary private practice in Colorado.
Mass experimental surgeries performed under these conditions outlined in the proposal, amounts to negligence and abuse. I believe experiments such as this proposal are unethical, inhumane and unwarranted. Any veterinarian(s) who would perform these experiments is in violation of the oath taken as a graduating veterinarian, “above all else, do no harm”. If a veterinarian in private practice performed these procedures in the manner described in this document they would most certainly be reported to and disciplined by the regulatory board of that state. Discipline would likely mean suspension of that veterinarian’s license to practice in that state.
All horses should be judged the same when it concerns care. Elective, unethical treatment should not be performed on either domestic horses or wild horses. BLM gives the impression that all wild horse areas are overpopulated, when in fact, most wild horse areas do not have a genetically sustainable population without intervention. This is due to over manipulation of herds to promote adoption, decreasing original herd use areas and allowing livestock to over graze our public lands. Once again, BLM is exceeding the statutory authority granted by Congress in the management of our wild horses.
Since the inception of the WHBA, BLM has practiced a management for extinction policy. It is ever so clear in the “experimental research policy” BLM is now proposing.
Donald E. Moore, D.V.M
Comments by Sue McDonnell (who is NOT a vet) and Julie Weikel of BLM’s National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board to an advocate who sent an email with link to an article by Debbie Coffey and Dr. Don Moore’s comment to the BLM:
Thank you for the link. That is very helpful. I trust that you want the information you circulate to be accurate, so I will share what I know.
I work with people who do this procedure in a world class equine vet hospital where I work, the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center. I have had ovariectomy via colpotomy done on my own research and clinical mares, and i find it a relatively non invasive procedure for ovariectomy. I should explain a couple things that you may understandably misunderstand about the procedure.
You mention the rectal palpation sleeve and implicate it as unsatisfactory because it is used also with cattle. The photo shows what to me looks like a sterile glove over the palpation sleeve. That is how it is done for ovariectomy via colpotomy on a farm or in a clinic or at a vet school hospital for horses. Using the clean (or sterile, Probably can’t tell for sure by photo alone) sleeve and sterile glove, all surfaces (typically only the sterile glove) that contact internal abdomen of the patient that should be kept free of “germs” are sterile. The sleeve is used as additional coverage that is very clean if not sterile as added protection. The bibs are not relevant, really, and they could be very clean, but it doesn’t matter much since they don’t touch the internal abdomen of the patient.
I will copy the veterinarians on the board, Dr. Cope and Dr. Weikel, to comment if they have time and can add to my comments. Believe it or not, out in the open air can in many cases can be a “cleaner” environment in terms of infection for colpotomy than inside a hospital, where germs and resistant strains tend to accumulate. If the outdoor area is dusty there would be concerns. Veterinarians are usually doing their best to protect the animal patient. I am not a vet, but have worked professionally with veterinarians in a vet school for over 35 years, and have found very few veterinarians who don’t try their best in this regard. I hear Dr. Moore’s concerns, and have not worked with Dr. Pielstick myself, but trust he is doing his best, which looks from your photos to be as good as here at a world class vet hospital or at other fine vet clinics.
I hope this is helpful. Please let me know what you think.
Thank you Dr. McDonnell for a very thorough coverage of (name redacted) concerns. I concur with all the points you make and add that dust management is routinely addressed during these procedures. I would also add that long term pain management and long term antibiotics are also routine for this procedure.
Certainly any handling of wild horses is stressful for them. However, the goal with these procedures is to achieve population stabilization so that further gathers are greatly reduced and bands can be left undisturbed, thus reducing total lifetime stressful events.
Julie Weikel DVM
And Dr. Don Moore’s response to these comments by Sue McDonnell and Julie Weikel :
The University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center is no doubt a fine surgery facility. I am also certain that surgeons at the New Bolton Center operate in surgical suites that are properly vented and sterilized, and for Dr. McDonnell to suggest anything less is to insult the very facility she is works for.
It has been my experience at Colorado State University that surgeons as well as veterinary student observers in the suite, were routinely in sterile, long sleeved surgical gowns and gloves. They also wear surgical masks and caps. This is the same protocol used by the excellent private practice facility I spoke with when researching these procedures. Standard of care dictates this diligent surgical preparation of the patient and surgical suite.
To suggest a “clean” sleeve is acceptable for abdominal surgery is ridiculous. Aseptic conditions are the required standard of care for any abdominal surgery and the equine patient is more susceptible to peritonitis than any other species that veterinarians deal with. To suggest an outdoor “facility” used by BLM could be a better choice than any properly equipped surgical suite is ludicrous. Academia and research facilities are no longer exempt from good standard of care.
Again, for BLM and the Advisory Board to propose this type of mass experimental surgery under the conditions outlined in the proposal, amounts to negligence and abuse.
To accept this mass butchery by BLM under the guise of research is inconceivable in a civilized society and to apologize for it suggests a complete misunderstanding of the ethics we as veterinarians pledge to adhere to.
For BLM to promote that there is over population of wild horses on public lands is without merit. Most wild horse areas are managed at levels below what is needed for self-sustaining, genetically viable numbers. Many wild horse areas, such as the Little Bookcliffs (which has long utilized PZP), still need to have additional animals introduced to avoid inbreeding. The Advisory Board would best focus research efforts to change the current BLM management practice of managing wild horses in significantly smaller subsets of original herd use areas that cannot physically allow for genetically viable, self-sustaining herds. The next focus should be proper management of the domestic species that are causing range degradation.
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)