Friday, July 31, 2009

Horses for heroes


FROM NBC Nightly news
Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009 10:38 AM by Sam Singal

By Lauren Selsky, NBC News desk assistant

As a student of history, I’ve studied countless battles where horses were used to wage war. Little did I know that they’re now being used to heal our soldiers after they come back from war.

I was intrigued when I first read about the Horses for Heroes program at the Maryland Therapeutic Riding center. The non-profit organization offers free equine therapy to veterans and active duty soldiers suffering from both physical and psychological wounds of war. I’d always thought equine therapy was for people with physical disabilities. Never did I think these animals could have such an effect on people suffering from psychological disabilities.

Shortly after arriving at MTR, Norah O’Donnell, producer Adam Verdugo, and I were introduced to the soldiers. They were cordial. A quick handshake and they headed to the barn. Thirty minutes later they emerged with the horses. There was a noticeable difference in their demeanor. Shoulders straightened, faces lit up, and they walked with an air of confidence.

In fact, everyone’s faces lit up when the horses were around – including our crew’s. As one of the soldiers said to me, “It’s hard NOT to smile when the horses are out.” That became obvious as the soldiers interacted with the horses on the way to the arena. Lots of smiles, hugs, and petting took place along the way.

It was uplifting to see the connection between the horses and the soldiers. Before we left, I asked Specialist Robert Rodriguez if he was sad to leave. His answer? “No, I’ll be back tomorrow.” Rodriguez, along with several of the other soldiers, plan to continue coming to the center…this time as volunteers.

To find out more about equine therapy and the Horses for Heroes program at the Maryland Therapeutic Riding center, please visit Horses That Heal

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Animal Welfare Special Report

From The Hill

Animal Welfare: Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act seeks to vanquish U.S. ties to horsemeat trade
By Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
Posted: 07/27/09 04:37 PM [ET]
America and every other successful civilization have been built with the help of horses. On their backs, we rode into war, tamed a continent and ushered in the Industrial Revolution. They are noble creatures to whom we owe much.

Today, horses are used for law enforcement, racing, rodeo, on farms and ranches, or in the case of my family, for showing and pleasure riding. Horses play many important roles in our country, but one role they do not play — not for any American — is as our dinner.

In keeping with American custom, we do not eat horsemeat or raise horses for slaughter. Yet almost 100,000 of our horses, many of them young and healthy, are brutally slaughtered every year. This includes our pleasure horses, workhorses, racehorses and wild horses. The reason? Their meat is considered a delicacy in Europe and Asia, and there is a small but powerful industry that is determined to meet this market demand. The vast majority of horse owners, breeders, and farmers would be horrified to know that their horses could meet such a gruesome fate. There is a better way

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and I have introduced the bipartisan Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (S. 727). When enacted, it will close slaughterhouses here in America and stop the export for slaughter to Canada and Mexico. It would specifically prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling or donation of horses for human consumption. A person violating this law would be subjected to criminal and civil penalties, including being fined or imprisoned. Congressional and public support for an end to horse slaughter is substantial, and I am confident that we will move this legislation this session.

The need is dire. Although this practice has greatly subsided on U.S. soil, young and healthy horses continue to be shipped over our borders to meet foreign market demands. Shoved onto double-decker cattle trucks where they are unable to stand fully upright and deprived of food and water for long periods, the transport to slaughter is, in itself, horrific. Death shows no mercy either. In Mexico, some horses are literally stabbed into a state of paralysis before they are slaughtered alive, fully conscious.

Opponents of our bill suggest that we should reopen plants here where horse slaughter could be better regulated. However, there is simply no way to make horse slaughter a humane process. Not only is there no American market for horsemeat, but many communities would never tolerate such practice in their jurisdictions. It would also be nearly impossible and extremely expensive to develop a network of plants as we have for food animals in the U.S., forcing horses to be transported over long distances, incurring egregious injuries and dying en route

Opponents also claim that horses going to slaughter are old or infirm. However, evidence shows most horses going to slaughter are typically fit animals. According to the USDA, more than 92 percent of horses going to slaughter are sound, healthy horses. This only makes sense; the killer-buyers are looking for the healthiest, meatiest animals because these are the horses that will generate the greatest profit, which is measured by price per pound

Opponents also claim that the roughly 100,000 horses that go to slaughter every year will flood our fields or be left abandoned. This argument is easily discounted by the numbers themselves. The figure of 100,000 represents only about 1 percent of the 9 million horses in the United States, and many of these 100,000 horses are stolen from caring owners. In 1998, when California banned horse slaughter, horse theft went down by 34 percent.

In addition, in 1990, more than 350,000 American horses were slaughtered for food compared to 100,000 horses slaughtered in 2008. Yet there has been no epidemic of unwanted horses on our streets or in our fields in the last 19 years. If overpopulation problems were to arise, horse owners will buy some of these horses, horse rescue facilities will absorb some, and others will be humanely euthanized. For the cost of approximately one month of care — roughly $250 — users can humanely euthanize and dispose of unwanted or sick horses.

Once this bill is passed and the export for slaughter is stopped, we can then turn our attention to supporting appropriate care and outcomes for these horses, including responsible breeding, rescue and adoption, and humane euthanasia. It is vital that we have infrastructure in place to care for horses in need and to offer assistance to public and private horse owners who are unable to provide for their animals.

There are currently more than 400 equine rescue facilities around the country. Although many are at capacity, there are certainly some with space and ability. Veterinarians are also helping, often partnering with rescue facilities to rehabilitate resident horses and place them in permanent homes. There are several unique programs around the country where horse trainers are working with rescues to make horses more marketable for adoption. Farmers are stepping up to help. For example, the National Black Farmers Association has partnered with the Animal Welfare Institute to place at-risk horses on member farms through Project Wanted Horse

Throughout our nation’s history, the federal government has stepped up to protect animals from vicious and inhumane treatment. It is now time for Congress to build upon that legacy. We simply cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the brutal killing of such majestic animals so that a small group of people can turn a nominal profit.

This debate is not about overpopulation. And it is not about dealing with old or sick horses. The future of horse slaughter legislation comes down to Congress having the will to do what is fair and what is right. By passing the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, we can show our respect for these creatures and prevent our American horses from succumbing to such a tragic demise. Horses are a unique part of American culture and heritage, and they should be treated as the noble animals that they are.

Landrieu is the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Walking with Winnie Trip Journal

From Walking with Winnie Journal

Winnie and I started our Monday early, so she could enjoy a breakfast of grass and I could enjoy another bareback ride before taking her for her afternoon appointment with the vet. Winnie didn't seem to mind me on her back at a walk or a trot. Her lameness might not be noticed except by a trained eye, but I could tell it was still there by the slight wobble in her step.

Dixieland Drummer, a race horse recuperating at Wyandot County Equine Rescue from a fractured cannon bone, rode in the trailer with Winnie to the University of Findlay campus. Big-hearted "Dixie" won his first race, but sacrificed his leg in the effort, and was sent to equally big-hearted Dave Balz at the rescue facility, in hopes of saving his life. Dave wanted x-rays taken of Dixie's leg, to see how well the horse has healed since the accident on May 30.

After the horses were unloaded at University Equine Veterinary Services, Dave introduced us to veterinarian Rick Henninger, who would examine both horses. Winnie went first.

I discussed Winnie's case with Dr. Henninger, who gave Winnie a flex test and watched her trot back and forth on a hard surface, and then on the lunge line in the softer arena. Back on the concrete flooring, Dr. Henninger grabbed Winnie's tail to pull her off balance a couple of times, to see how well she would recover when thrown off her stance. He also had his assistant turn her in tight circles while he watched how she handled her feet. He could see the slight drag and stiffness in the hind end, particularly on the right side. She had a bit of clumsiness on her left side, too, and asked me if Winnie has shown any signs of illness. Since she hasn't had any fever or gone off her feed since I adopted her, Dr. Henninger did not think a test for EPM or herpes was warranted. He explained that if she were diseased, her lameness would progress in spite of rest. In Winnie's case, rest improves her condition, which means it is more likely the lameness is caused by soft tissue wear and tear.

The vet suspects that the repetitive task of walking several hours and days in a row, for long distances, could be the reason for Winnie's lameness, even though we trained and prepared for the walk from March through May. We discussed the possibility of giving Winnie bute and resting her for two or three weeks, then putting her to the task again, to see if the lameness returns.

I then asked the vet about the possibility that Winnie is too young for the job I am asking her to do, and he said that this might be true.

Certainly I do not want to risk causing further pain, injury, or permanent damage to my horse, and after giving it some more thought on the way home from the exam, I decided it would be in Winnie's best interest to discontinue the walk altogether. I fear the lameness will return if I resume the same schedule of work. It would be better to trailer Winnie the distance west, and let her recover over a six-month period.

This is what I must do for my horse, in spite of the disappointment it brings. I expect Winnie's fans will remain loyal, even though she only achieved ten percent of her intended miles across the USA. At least we made it over the Pennsylvania line, met and heard from many wonderful people, and hopefully, brought attention to the plight of the mustang horse, America's National Treasure.

Thanks to all those folks who have helped us on our way, hosted us, raised money for our effort, and cheered us on. We are sorry we will miss meeting those who agreed to host us along the American Discovery Trail from Cincinnati to Dodge City, and from the Santa Fe Trail to points further west. I am especially disappointed to miss this part of the trip, where we would spend less time in traffic and more time on trail, enjoying the view across the Western horizon.

As for Dixie, his future is uncertain, and after looking at his x-rays, Dr. Henninger recommended six additional weeks of rest. Dave also told the doctor about the horse that injured himself over the weekend (see last Saturday's blog entry), and his future is also uncertain. For now, he remains in the stall next to Winnie, and they have become friends.

At present I am working on making arrangements for Winnie's trailer ride from Carey, Ohio to Reno, Nevada, where my daughter can pick us up with her friend's trailer. I will continue to blog about our journey until we arrive in Paradise, and from there, I hope to network with local folk who want to protect horses, rescue abused animals, and save the Mustangs. While I cannot know what is in store for Winnie and me, I still have faith that God knows what he is doing with us. We must surrender to the circumstances as they are presented, and try to make the best choice for Winnie.

Horse slaughter traceability rules worry food exporters

From Western Producer

By Barbara Duckworth
Calgary bureau

European demands for more detailed health information on Canadian horses processed for meat have some Canadians worried while others say it is not a bad thing.

The requirement is expected to be in place next April and will require that horses have complete health records on medications they received or that they be put into a 180 day quarantine to ensure the meat is safe for human consumption.

Claude Boissonneault, head of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's red meat programs, said Canada will likely choose to go with a six month period where horses are isolated in a feedlot.

"Europe wants an action plan from its suppliers detailing how this will be accomplished to identify and trace horses," said Boissonneault.

That has Werner Siegrist of Canadian Premium Meats at Lacombe, Alta., worried. He said the quarantine period will be expensive at $2 per horse per day and he worries companies like his, which ship beef, bison and horse meat to the EU, could lose business.

Other countries use producer affidavits declaring horses are medication free. The owner's declaration goes with the horse to slaughter.

"That seems like a straightforward procedure where Canada seems to be the only country leading to a system where they want to quarantine those horses for 180 days in the feedlot," said Siegrist.

The Lacombe plant receives unwanted horses and in many cases, records of the animal's history are not available.

"There is no system in place. It took 10 years to develop the system with ear tags in cattle and right now we don't have anything in horses," said Siegrist.

Boissonneault said the new requirements are coming in a year on an interim basis with full implementation expected within three years.

Bill des Barres sees the new traceability requirements as a way to ensure Canada upholds its reputation for clean food.

Responsible horse owners should maintain good records, said des Barres, chair of the Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada.

" It may not be an option to send the horse for processing if the animal has been prescribed pharmaceuticals that have adverse effects on a consumer, whether it be a human animal or a zoo animal or a pet," he said.

A problems exists with abandoned animals from the United States where horse slaughter is banned. No one knows the history of these animals, which could have come from states under quarantine because of diseases like vesicular stomatitis.

"To find out where the horse came from is a very small part of the situation. What we really need to know is what is the health of the horse and what pharmaceuticals have been administered," des Barres said.

Canadian meat is tested for drug residue in the European Union and if it is found, the meat is destroyed and the processor could lose the business.

Boissonneault said Canada and the EU are working to develop ways to encourage further documentation of horses and traceability. He said drug residue in meat has not been a problem in the past.

He said in future, horses will be inspected more closely at plants.

More detailed samples from livers and kidneys, which filter drugs, will be taken. Carcasses found with residue will be condemned.

Visual inspections for injection sites or disease that may have required medicine will also increase.

Part of the problem with horse medication is that information on withdrawal times is not generally available for horses in North America because they are not considered food animals.

Les Burwash of the horse industry branch at Alberta Agriculture said the province plans a study on residues from worming products because that is one of the most common drugs used.

If Canada fails to comply with withdrawal times and health records, Europe may import its horse meat from South America or Mexico, he said.

CFIA statistics report about 60 percent of the world's population consumes horse meat and Canada is one of the top two suppliers of horse meat to the EU.

There are about one million horses in Canada and in 2008, 111,000 were slaughtered in six federally inspected plants. The meat went to Europe, as well as Japan.

In 2008, 15,294 tonnes of horse meat were exported and about 300 tonnes were eaten in Canada, mainly in Quebec.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Wild Horse Education…

My Wild Horse Education…
Not what I thought it would be
By Laura Leigh

Horses in our country exist in a very bizarre area of lack of “definition.” This grey area is unlike any other animal in our country.

Domestic horses walk a line between pet and livestock. They exist within a murky lack of designation that creates gaps in the process of passing legislation to protect the welfare of our workmates and companions. This lack of designation for domestics leave horses no true nationwide process of law that govern pets, such as dogs and cats, and no designation as true livestock with protocol for care and feeding. Animals NOT raised as livestock are open to export for slaughter as a consumable product that clearly has not been regulated as such. But because of any true lack of protocol efforts to halt this emotionally charged process are difficult to bring to fruition. They get bogged down in committee and debate. The debates are filled with circular logic, special interests, and a lack of clear statistical data. We continue to export an agricultural product that is unregulated, inhumane, and unsafe. Not to mention has “my little pony” crammed in a double-decker cattle truck off to be stabbed to death in Mexico.

That clear lack of definition and the consequences are magnified when we begin to look at the wild horses of America.

Most people think of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) when we think “wild horse.” But not all horses fall under the BLM. Many wild horses fall into categories regulated by state run branches of Fish and Game and other organizations. So if we can’t pass any clear legislation on domestics, imagine the nightmare of getting any policy in place to collectively protect America’s wild herds.

This clear lack of designation is so far reaching. This is the closest thing I can find to a comprehensive list of Wild Horses and the agencies that manage them.

Recently HR 1018 passed the house.

Animal Welfare institute update:
Feels like a victory… but is it? This legislation will now need to go before the Senate and into committee. This will all need to be done during very specific timelines. If it is not passed within those timelines… it’s back to square one.

This legislation attempts to repair much of the damage done to the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

Conrad Burns effectively gutted this legislation

This is Conrad Burns. No surprise.
Burns is responsible for creating a lot of economic issues in our corn-based economy. But right now I’m going to focus on horses.

I will add updates as I find out the timeline on the Senate actions.

What a Mess.

As I began to look at the issues surrounding wild horses I came across some very interesting people involved with the care of these magnificent beings. As I looked closer I began to see the overwhelming obstacles they faced.

Let’s go back to the definition issue. With wild horses you have federal property and state property. You have BLM land leased to special interests that was designated for wild populations. You have state construction companies building homes, cattle ranchers, resource disputes and an outrageous lack of protocol and regulation. Contracts and permits are issued without impartial data on even the simple issue of head counts. Is this a “feral” or wild classification? If this animal is classified as wild, or even “feral,” then you would think the same regulations that apply to other wildlife, or species that interact with wildlife, would be found somewhere in this mix. If it exists, I can’t find it. Any wildlife study and management plan I have ever seen is clearly and meticulously documented. Not so here. And if this country were allowing the shipment of any other species that exists in the wild for slaughter for foreigners to eat… you’d see it on Nightline, Today and Oprah.

A Look at Nevada

I began to follow some of the issues in Nevada and took a trip to see things with my own eyes.

I saw the BLM facility, Palomino Valley. They were in the process of clearing the facility to clean it and prepare for the next round of gathers that will start in August. The BLM claims to be broke. It claims to have no money to support the horses it currently has in holding, 33,000. The BLM plans to kill these horses.
But is preparing to do another round of gathers. Gathers it claims it must do because of over-population. Data that has been collected in a disputable fashion that does not follow any protocol used to define other wild populations.
The BLM claims that it does not gather during “foaling season.”

I took photographs at the Palomino Valley BLM facility on 7/21/09. These horses were from the last gather. I saw only mares and foals. These foals were newly born and nursing. It doesn’t take a PHD, or a three-year government funded study, to see that any gather that takes place in August will kill foals and create extraordinary stress to a herd.

I have tried to find any study that resembles an extensive environmental impact, from an impartial source. If it exists, I can’t find it. The removal of large numbers of any animal from the wild should be monitored closely as the animal’s health is a direct reflection of environment. The animals I saw appeared of good weight. These animals did not come from an environment that can’t sustain them. Again no PHD needed.

However, I did see some issues at the facility that as a horse owner cause alarm.
Extreme heat, no shelter and only alfalfa as feed. The horses I saw in the wild had opportunity to find shade. They appeared to eat food that would be much lower in carbs than hay such as alfalfa. It would make much more sense to feed these animals hay such as grass or timothy. Alfalfa could cause severe consequence to the long-term health of these animals and a diet too rich can create behavior issues much like putting chocolate cake in a toddler. But I know it is cheaper… and from all the info I have, long-term health is not a concern for the BLM. Again I have no PHD so why listen to me.

On July 22 there was a protest that took place in Carson City, Nevada. The protest is focused on a small group of horses falling through the cracks and into a power struggle with the local government agencies in Nevada. The protesters were asking that the State’s Attorney General perform an official investigation.

Youtube corruption in Nevada state government:

WWER and the fertility study swindle

Here is the link to read about a piece of this issue in detail.
These horses crossed state lines. As an outsider I am unclear why this issue is being brought to the state of Nevada at all. This appears to be a federal issue. And in the meantime a small rescue operation is trying to care for mares used in a fertility study they can’t even get specified medical records on!

If you read the comments and articles in a local paper after the protest it really does appear as if the state has a personal beef with certain individuals that have questioned their practices and it extends into the community.

The AP picked up the story but appears to not question the “sound bite” answer given by local authority. No research or information is given except the “he said, she said.” Sad…

There were news camera crews present and lots of reporters. But I can’t find a single link.
Not a single piece that covers both sides in any depth.

This is one small piece of the nightmare created by a lack of accountability through a national non-designation and standard for protocol of herd management. Current legislation needs to be written to create an umbrella that sets a standard for accountability and gives authority to manage resources that provide for the health of that environment. Clear data to support the decision making process must be gathered in a consistent fashion.

Here is an article showing the convoluted justification process that remains unchallenged in any true process of a hearing of data. The agency (BLM) doing the decisions creates the data internally. To a simple mind like mine that’s like allowing the tobacco industry to do long-term health studies on cigarettes and go unchallenged.

Until such a designation and standard of accountability is created we will continue to see examples of political maneuvering to create profitable circumstances for a select few that hold contracts within each state. We will see laws written and abused to exploit a symbol of the American spirit. We will go about our days as these horses… our wild American icons… join our domestic horses in the pipeline, shipped over our borders, then brutally slaughtered and sent overseas to be eaten by foreign fine diners.

More links of Interest:

What you can do:
Become educated on the issue. Look at all sides. Challenge statements made that resemble facts… ask for hard data.
Call your local representatives and just say, “I care about what happens to OUR horses.”
Contact Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar or 202-208-7351 and ask that the BLM please refrain from taking premature action that may jeopardize this resource to the point of no return, at a time when we so desperately need this symbol of the American Spirit.

Laura Leigh is an artist and horse owner living in the PNW.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Drastic Removal Planned for Cloud's Herd

From Cloud Foundation




Watch Youtube Video here

Dear Friends of Cloud’s Herd,

Some good news: HR 1018 the “Restore our American Mustang” or ROAM Act passed through Congress on July 17 with a vote of 239-185! Now we need to keep up this bill’s momentum and get it out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and up for a vote. The Senate will likely be a much tougher vote for this bill so please start asking your senators now to vote yes on the ROAM act (click here to contact your senators).

The Cloud Foundation had meetings with the BLM, the Forest Service, and Montana Representatives earlier this month and we have legally appealed the BLM’s recent Herd Management Area Plan on the grounds that it does not allow for a self-sustaining, genetically viable herd. We have also appealed the Forest Service’s decision to rebuild the fence across the top of the Pryors to keep horses from accessing their historical and currently used rangelands in the Custer National Forest.

The BLM just released their Preliminary Environmental Assessment for a roundup in the Pryors and you can read it here. The BLM proposes rounding up and removing 70 HORSES plus some foals. Comments should be mailed by August 17th to: Billings BLM Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101

Polaris and her 2009 filly "Jet" and Bachelors spar in the Forest Service Lands

The Cloud Foundation could support a limited removal of up to 20 one and two-year old horses but we must not allow BLM to bring this herd down the such low numbers and destroy their unique Spanish genetics. Nearly all mares returned to the range would be given a 22-month contraceptive drug, which is still being tested in the wild. This would gut the herd, leaving fewer than ten reproducing mares in the coming year.

I have recorded a new Youtube piece- click here to view. We are asking that everyone contact Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar or 202-208-7351. We need to go to the top to save this unique herd of wild horses should the BLM move forward with their disastrous plan!

Thank you,

Ginger Kathrens
Volunteer Executive Director
The Cloud Foundation

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Native Americans proved not to be proponents of horse slaughter

From: Equine Welfare Alliance

July 23, 2009


Contacts: John Holland

Vicki Tobin

CHICAGO, (EWA) – A prominent equestrian author, R.T. Fitch, has exposed information reported in an Associated Press article as bogus.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon refuted claims made in the article quoting tribal sources saying there are no such plans to build a slaughter plant on any reservation. The story was reported in the online edition of Horseback Magazine.

HOUSTON (SFHH) – On July 18th, 2009, an Associated Press story hit the internet quoting sources saying the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon, would attempt to reintroduce horse slaughter into the United States. The headline, “Groups Push to Slaughter Horses for Meat Possibly in Oregon” swept across the internet like wildfire.

”Native Americans and others are pushing for the renewed slaughter of horses in the U.S….and processing them into meat,” The AP story said. “...The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are considering building a slaughter and processing facility…on their reservation north of Madras, as recommended last spring by a coalition of Northwest tribes.

The story by Dick Cockle is inaccurate. Several days of data mining and calls to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs revealed information that refutes virtually everything Cockle reported.

“No, we are not making any plans to build a horse slaughter plant on any reservation”, stated Tim Outman, field representative for the Warm Springs Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources.

Putting all cultural and moral conflicts aside, Outman said, “Who would invest $8-10 million into building a facility where there is absolutely no market? Shipping horse meat is against Federal Law. We have no idea what, where or who, is perpetuating this misinformation.”

“This sort of journalism does nothing to further the cause and public relations of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs”, stated Outman.

The AP also misquoted Chris Hyde of Washington’s Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) as well, says the DC lobbyist.

“Richard Cockle has again written another poorly researched and unsupported article on horses,” an outraged Hyde told an Oregon news organization. “I spent a great deal of time on the phone with him providing facts and evidence dismissing the misleading claims put forward by individuals more interested in abusing horses than advancing the truth.”

“However, what does he do? Prints rhetoric,” Hyde continued. “It is a shame that Mr. Cockle, Sue Wallis and others continue to exploit the truth and suffering of horses just to make a name for themselves nationally.”

Wallis is a Wyoming state representative active in an effort to return equine slaughter to the United States.

R.T. Fitch is Author of the acclaimed Straight From the Horse’s Heart

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wild Horses & The Ecosystem

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act
recognizes the wild horse as an "integral component of the natural system." It stipulates that horses can only be
removed from public lands if it is proven that they are overpopulating or are causing habitat destruction. It further mandates that the government "maintain specific ranges on public lands as sanctuaries for their protection and

In order to remove wild horses from public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has claimed that horses are destroying critical habitat, competing for grazing lands, and overpopulating. But reports by the _General Accounting Office_ ( and the _National Academy of Sciences_ ( dispute such claims: BLM has never presented any evidence that horses destroy habitat, nor that their population levels are what it claims they are. In fact, reducing horse populations in a given area has a negligible effect on range conditions: after massive wild horse roundups, herd areas show little or no improvement, especially in instances when cattle numbers remain the same (or increase). In stark contrast with BLM’s assertions, scientific studies have shown that horses actually benefit their environment in numerous ways; vegetation seems to thrive in some areas inhabited by horses, which may be one reason the Great Plains were once a "sea of grass." Generally, range conditions in steep hilly areas favored by horses are much better than in lower areas frequented by cattle. Cows have no upper front teeth, only a thick pad: they graze by wrapping their long tongues around grass and pulling on it. If the ground is wet, they will pull out the grass by the roots, preventing it from growing back. Horses have both upper and lower incisors and graze by "clipping the grass," similar to a lawn mower, allowing the grass to easily grow back. In addition, the horse’s digestive system does not thoroughly degrade the vegetation it eats. As a result, it tends to “replant” its own forage with the diverse seeds that pass through its system undegraded. This unique digestive system greatly aids in the building up of the absorptive, nutrient-rich humus component of soils. This, in turn, helps the soil absorb and retain water upon which many diverse plants and animals depend. In this way, the wild horse is also of great value in reducing dry inflammable vegetation in fire-prone areas. Back in the 1950s, it was primarily out of concern over brush fires that Storey County, Nevada, passed the first wild horse protection law in the nation.

The fact that horses wander much farther from water sources than many ruminant grazers adds to their efficacy as fire preventers. This tendency to range widely throughout both steep, hilly terrain and lower, more level areas, while cattle concentrate on lower elevations, also explains why horses have a lesser impact on their environment than livestock: when one looks at a boundary fence where horses range on one side and cattle range on the other, the horses’ side typically reveals about 30% more native grasses. Their nomadic grazing habits cause horses to nibble and then move to the next bunch of grass. This is why horse range is seldom denuded unless the horses' natural grazing patterns are disrupted by human interference, mostly in the form of fencing.

A team of Russian scientists, part of a cooperative venture with the United States, came in 2001 to study the effects of grazing animals on riparian areas in Nevada. They tested streams for nutrients and examined the desert and Sierra to learn techniques to improve the environment of their homeland. The scientists found that cows, which tend to camp around water sources, cause more damage to the stream banks than wild horses, which tend to drink and move on: "When we saw horses drinking from creeks, we didn't see much impact except for hoof prints. The water looked clean, had good overhanging branches and there was no sign of erosion on the banks. There was an
abundance of insects and animals, including frogs and dragonflies and water-striders." Areas extensively used by cattle had fewer nutrients in the water and showed signs of bank erosion and other damage, concluded the study.

Cattle trampling a natural spring on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest– Courtesy Center for Biological Diversity
Horses have proven useful to other species they share the range with: in winter months, they have the instinct to break through even deep crusted snow where the grass cannot be seen. They also open up frozen springs and
ponds with their powerful hooves, making it possible for smaller animals to drink. During the historic blizzard of 1886, hundreds of thousands of cattle were lost on the Plains. Those that survived followed herds of mustangs and grazed in the areas they opened up. Another positive effect of wild horses on biodiversity was documented in the case of the Coyote Canyon horses in the Anza Borrega National Park (California). After wild horses were all removed from the Park to increase big horn sheep population, bighorn sheep mortality actuality skyrocketed: mountain lions, wild horse predators, compensated the loss of one of their prey species by increasing their predation on other species.

Wild horses should not be used as scapegoats for range degradation that is in fact primarily caused by private livestock: for instance, environmentalists have determined that in Nevada, home of the vast majority of America's
remaining wild horses, the herds have little impact on the ecosystem compared with the hundreds of thousands of cattle that also roam the Nevada range. The Western Watersheds Project acknowledges that "the main cause of
degradation of public lands in the arid west is livestock use and not wild horses."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Obstructionist Lawmakers Harm Animals and the Economy

Michael Markarian: Animals & Politics

Obstructionist Lawmakers Harm Animals and the Economy

Posted: 17 Jul 2009 03:09 PM PDT

The U.S. House of Representatives this morning passed H.R. 1018, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act, by a vote of 239-185. This legislation championed by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) seeks to put a stop to the commercial slaughter of wild horses, and to encourage more humane and fiscally responsible management of mustangs on the range through fertility control and adoption. It would save millions of tax dollars each year, and would create a better framework than the current system, which relies on costly round-ups and the keeping of captive horses in federal holding pens where they essentially live on the government dole.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Restoring
Our American Mustangs Act today by a vote of 239-185.

But the debate on the House floor this morning underscored that there is a small cabal of out-of-touch lawmakers who take every opportunity to belittle and bemoan animal welfare issues, no matter how moderate and sensible. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is the worst offender, and he spoke against the bill today along with Representatives Steve King (R-Iowa) and Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), who said she’s a big animal lover but has a record that reflects quite the opposite stance. Boehner and King are the House’s worst two members on animal welfare and they routinely defend the nation’s worst forms of animal abuse, including horse slaughter and animal fighting. Boehner today called the wild horse protection bill “an insult” to the American people, and said we should spend our time on national priorities other than mustangs.

It was déjà vu from this February when the House approved a public safety and animal welfare bill by Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to ban the trade in primates as pets, after a pet chimpanzee viciously attacked a Connecticut woman and left her severely disfigured. Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) mocked that bill on the House floor, and said the work of Congress is too important to spend time on “monkey bites.” Tell that to Charla Nash, whose face and hands were bitten off. We provided similar warnings on keeping large constricting snakes, and now sure enough, there was a two-year-old girl killed in her home two weeks ago after a pet Burmese python escaped from its enclosure. You can be sure Boehner and King will oppose legislation introduced by Representative Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) to crack down on the trade in pythons as exotic pets, no matter the human toll.

A similar scene is now playing out on the opposite coast in California, where California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is using YouTube and Twitter to mock an animal cruelty bill. S.B. 135, introduced by Senate Majority Leader and Food & Agriculture Committee Chairman Dean Florez (D-Shafter), would ban the tail docking of dairy cows. The policy of stopping this painful and unnecessary mutilation is backed by animal welfare groups, veterinarians, and even the California Farm Bureau, and it passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin. But Schwarzenegger dismisses the discussion of “cow’s tails” while there’s a budget crisis in the state.

We all know there’s a budget crisis, and government priorities like creating jobs and fixing the economy. But legislators should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. While they sort out the big subjects, and allow themselves to get locked into partisan battles day after day instead of solving these big problems, they can’t ignore the quotidian responsibilities of lawmaking. Animal welfare is just one of the many issues that is important to mainstream Americans, and our elected officials can spend just a little bit of time moving the ball forward for these creatures, as they can do for other important but lower-profile issues. It’s not an either-or proposition between animals and jobs, and they can’t just expect to pass one bill each week and spend the rest of the time tanning or playing the back nine.

If they were truly concerned about the economy, self-described fiscal conservatives like Boehner, Bishop, and King should have been the first to line up today in support of the mustang legislation. The current program is a fiscal disaster, with the Bureau of Land Management stuck on a treadmill spending millions of tax dollars essentially running captive horse shelters. The Rahall bill maps out a better pathway, and will save American taxpayers at least $6 million each year just by keeping the population numbers in check through fertility control on the range, as an alternative to costly round-ups and long-term horse care.

Saving horses and saving tax dollars shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Thirty-three Republicans voted in favor of the bill today, including many fiscal conservatives like Representatives Dan Burton (R-Ind.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), and Thad McCotter (R-Mich.), and we thank them for their support of a more humane and more fiscally responsible policy. Other Republicans, like Representatives Whitfield and Elton Gallegly (R-Calif), are stalwart animal advocates. But the obstinate ones just don’t see the big picture, and they will gladly stand in the way of any modest animal welfare reform—even if it means they must continue fleecing the American taxpayers to do it and allowing cruelty to occur without intervention.

Congress Passes Wild Horse and Burro Protection Legislation

From: Equine Welfare Alliance

July 17, 2009


Contacts: John Holland


Vicki Tobin


Congress Passes Wild Horse and Burro Protection Legislation

CHICAGO, (EWA) – The Equine Welfare Alliance applauds Congress today in passing, Restore Our American Mustangs" (ROAM) Act, H.R. 1018, legislation that will protect America’s heritage, our Wild Mustangs.

The legislation, although heavily supported by Democrats, also received twenty-four percent of GOP votes. “This is an indication,” said Holland and Tobin, “of the bipartisan support horse legislation has enjoyed in past years. We are optimistic of continued bipartisan support for legislation to end the slaughter of American horses (HR 503 & S 727) and the banning of double decker cattle trucks for use in the transport of horses (HR 305).”

The legislation restores what former Montana senator, Conrad Burns, removed from the 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

An important aspect of this bill is the prevention the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and the wholesale killing of healthy wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management and possibly others.

“This is definite indication of the mainstream support for protecting our heritage and ending the unnecessary slaughter of our horses that all of these bills enjoy,” said Tobin.

The message to western state legislators, supported by the deep pockets of agriculture associations, couldn’t be any clearer. American’s revere their heritage and our horses that work, race, perform and provide services and their outrage of American horses ending up on elite foreign diner’s dinner plates.

Again, the EWA reiterates its support of the animal agriculture where the horse has always served as man’s loyal helpmate in bringing meat to market. We don’t eat our equine helpmates. We eat cattle, swine, poultry and other traditional food animals.

HR 1018 Restore Our American Mustangs Act (ROAM Act) Passes in the US House!


Restore Our American Mustangs Act Passes

Yea 239
Nay 185
10 NV

Dem 205 47
Rep 33 138
Total 239 185

From AP

House votes to save wild horses, burros

By KEVIN FREKING (AP) – 18 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — The House has voted to expand the range of the nation's wild horses and burros by millions of acres and to block a plan to kill thousands of the animals to prevent overgrazing.

The bill passed 239-185 Friday.

Supporters say the additional land and other measurers are needed to free thousands of mustangs and burros from holding pens and to prevent their slaughter.

An estimated 36,000 wild horses and burros live in 10 Western states. Federal officials estimate that's about 9,400 more than can exist in balance with other rangeland resources.

The measure would stop the government from slaughtering healthy horses and prohibit keeping them in holding pens for more than six months.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation's wild horses would be protected from slaughter and given millions more acres to roam under legislation moving toward passage Friday in the House.

Supporters of the bill mobilized after the Interior Department announced last year that it may have to kill thousands of healthy wild horses and burros to deal with the growing population on the range and in holding facilities.

Republicans complained the bill underscores Democrats' misplaced priorities by focusing on animals instead of people, at a time when the nation's unemployment rate is approaching double digits. They also said the measure would place the protection of wild horses and burros above other animals that rely on the rangeland.

"This bill is based on emotion and not science," Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said during the debate Friday.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that enacting the Restore our American Mustangs Act would cost about $200 million over the next five years. Currently, the wild herds roam over about 33 million acres of Western land.

To comply with the bill, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management would need to find an additional 20 million acres, primarily after 2013, at a cost of up to $500 million, according the CBO.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the CBO's estimates don't reflect new language in the bill that makes adding millions of acres of rangeland a goal rather than a legal requirement.

Rahall said the bill will actually save the government money because the Bureau of Land Management will be able to reduce resources now devoted to caring for the animals in corrals and on pastures. He said slaughtering healthy animals to control their population should not be an option.

"How in the world can a federal agency be considering the massive slaughter of animals the law says they are supposed to be protecting?" he said.

An estimated 36,000 wild horses and burros live in 10 Western states. The bureau determines how many wild horses can graze in various areas and rounds up the excess numbers to protect the herd. The agency estimates that the current free-roaming population exceeds by about 9,400 the number that can exist in balance with public rangeland resources.

Off the range, more than 31,000 other wild horse and burros are cared for in corrals and pastures.

Supporters of the legislation said their goal is to restore the amount of land available to wild horses when protections were first enacted in 1971. The additional land would make it unnecessary to place so many horses in holding pens, consequently lowering the program's costs. The bill also focuses more resources into an adoption program and on sterilization.

While Rahall said the cost estimates were overblown, Republicans weren't buying it. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that debating the bill at all was an insult to people looking for work and small businesses trying to keep their doors open.

"It doesn't make any sense that we're debating a welfare program about wild horses when the American people really want to know, where are the jobs?" Boehner said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Signs Horse Tripping Bill

Gov. Brewer acts on last of 80 bills


• Animal fighting. Senate Bill 1115 expands the prohibition on dog fighting to include all animals, with the exception of those trained to protect livestock from predators. The bill also makes horse tripping - in which the legs of a galloping horse are roped to cause it to fall - a Class 1 misdemeanor (the most serious). The law excludes horse racing, training, branding or traditional rodeo sports.

[End excerpt.]


Bad Bills That Did Not Pass (Good News For Us!)

· Horse Slaughter: SCM1001 would have urged the state to oppose federal legislation banning horse slaughter and the export of horses to other countries for slaughter. A Senate Concurrent Memorial (SCM) is a “postcard” to Congress, asking Congress to act on an issue that the Arizona Legislature does not have jurisdiction to act upon itself. Memorials are merely requests; however SCM 1001 would have sent the wrong message about horse slaughter.

Congress Has a Chance to Strike a Blow Against Horse Slaughter

From U.S. News

Please stop in to leave a comment!

July 14, 2009 03:40 PM ET | Bonnie Erbe

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Today is Save the Horses Day (my phrase) on Capitol Hill for equine enthusiasts nationwide. The Humane Society and Animal Welfare Institute have invited horse lovers and rescue operations from across the country to convene at the U.S. Capitol to lobby their House members and Senators to support a bill that would ban the transport of U.S. horses to Canada and Mexico for slaughter.

I covered the group's breakfast session in the Russell Senate Office Building where Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) addressed the crowd. She explained her life-long love of horses and why she's one of four co-authors (along with Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.)) of a bill, S-727/H.R. 503, to ban transport for horse slaughter.

Several years ago the last horse slaughterhouse in the U.S. was shuttered. But the bloody doors flew wide open at Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses, waiting for the outflow of horses shipped from the United States. Transport of these mostly healthy, mostly young (average age: 7) horses in crowded, open trailers for days, almost always without food or water, is horrible enough. Then, they are lined up where untrained low-wage workers shoot bolts into their brains. The horses can take hours to die and the bolts frequently miss. You could not imagine a more inhumane fate.

Both groups discussed the "myth" of the unwanted horse. So-called killer buyers are making so much money off of horses' misery, they now outbid rescue groups trying to save the horses.

The bill, by the way, encourages as an alternative to transport, humane euthanization here in the U.S. by gunshot or sedation. I don't agree with that portion of the bill, but gun crazed horse killers can't complain the bill robs them of the power to kill their own horses. Unfortunately, it does not. What they lose by killing the horses themselves is the $400 fee the horse would bring at auction. And if they kill the horse legally, they usually have to pay something to dispose of the remains.

Monday, July 13, 2009

FACTS about the horse meat trade in France

From: Equine Rescue France

July 11, 2009 by Equine Rescue France

French report
There are many assumptions made about the scale of horse production in France, particularly in the UK where individuals want to `rescue' horses from the abattoir. We regularly hear `rescue' sites talking about the huge numbers of horses being transported in illegal conditions to Italy – indeed we once believed these tales too and it is only with considerable research that we found out the truth.

The official 2008 figures have recently been released and they make interesting reading:

In 2008, French production of horses for meat recorded a sharp drop of almost 22% – in the official report this is contributed to the new regulations on transport and welfare, proof that the long-haul transportation campaigns ARE working. Lobbying has led to a change in the EU laws which in turn has led to a sharp decrease in the horses being transported long distances.
Sales of horses for slaughter in Italy, France's largest customer, also fell by 22% to only 6,408 heads in 2008.
French exports of horse meat has increased slightly compared 2007 – a direct result of the `Hook not Hoof' campaign.
Sadly though, Italy would seem to prefer to source from Romania and Poland, the importation of Romanian meat horses has risen sharply (+40% vs 2007) with prices much weaker than those of other European countries. This is where the focus for future campaigns needs to be as the length of these journeys and the conditions in the trucks is far worse than seen from France (see the WHW investigative report filmed in 2008).
So next time someone tries to encourage you to spend over the odds to buy a horse from France destined for slaughter, suggest that they research the facts and work alongside reputable charities such as the WHW in Romania and Poland.

The full report (in French) can be found here.

Sneak Peeks for Howling Ridge & Cloud Documentary

Just a heads-up on two upcoming shows. I will send reminders a few days before the programs but thought you would want to mark these dates on your calendars.

July 22: Our guests will be Clifton and Teresa Aduddell from Ghost Dancers and Craig Downer, wildlife biologist. Clifton is the gentleman that Craig mentioned on last week’s program. I had a most wonderful chat with Clifton last week. He is absolutely fascinating and a wealth of knowledge. He is involved in many activities both local and international. BTW- I made him promise to speak a bit in his lyrical native language. It is magical!

Craig has been on our program several times and I’m sure you are all familiar with him and the outstanding work he does on behalf of our Wild Mustangs.

August 12: Chase Adams, CEO of The American Horse League will return to Howling Ridge for a second program. We will have a full two hours with Chase and look forward to a lively discussion. We will be using a different format so everyone will have a chance to speak without any talk-overs.

Cloud: Don’t forget to tune in or set your recorders to Nature/PBS (check your local listings) on July 22 8p Eastern for the premier of Cloud’s Legacy: The Wild Stallion Returns. The documentary is, of course, narrated by Ginger Kathrens.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Press Release from Equine Welfare Alliance

Equine Welfare Alliance

July 10, 2009


Contacts: Vicki Tobin 630.961.9292

John Holland 540.268.5693

Pro Slaughter Group Issues Tainted Survey Results

CHICAGO, (EWA) – The Unwanted Horse Coalition, a subsidiary of the American Horse Council continues to present a false facade of neutrality on the explosive issue of horse slaughter in America, all the while doing everything in its considerable power to bring back an industry shunned by the overwhelming majority of Americans.

The Washington D.C. based lobbying group has the support of pro slaughter breeders, ranchers, and others with an economic interest in disposing of horses for profit – no matter the cruelty involved.

The latest AHC/UHC tactic was Thursday’s issuance of the results from an obviously slanted “national survey”. As an example, the survey reported that 86-88% of participants perceived that abuse was a big problem in the past year while only 22-28% thought it had been a big problem three years ago. This bracketing conveniently omitted the nearly two year period in which the domestic slaughter plants were closed before the economy collapsed.

The survey results reflected that among the participants the closing of the domestic slaughter plants was considered second to the economy as the most significant contributor to the neglect problem. Clearly this perception cannot be valid given that 134,000 horses were exported for slaughter in 2008; the second highest slaughter count since 1995.

The survey results were held until the senate committee hearing giving anti slaughter advocates no opportunity to respond. The release of this survey in conjunction with the requested GAO study was intended as a stalling technique to delay legislation that has overwhelming congressional support. This is yet another attempt in a long string of such tactics to prevent legislation from going to the senate floor for a vote.

In addition to leading questions, the targeted participants were largely members of pro slaughter organizations. Equine welfare organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Welfare Institute, the Equine Welfare Alliance and numerous anti slaughter organizations were not invited to participate.

A major supporter of the American Horse Council and Unwanted Horse Coalition is the American Quarter Horse Association that actively lobbies for horse slaughter. Horses registered to the Amarillo based breed association account for approximately half of all horses going to slaughter as breeders are encouraged by its leadership to breed with no regard to the resulting excess horses. Many of the horses going to slaughter are culls which breeders were unable to sell. Remarkably, only 30% of these “stakeholders” thought this was contributing to the over population and neglect.

The study will almost certainly impact wild horse legislation, HR 1018, as well as anti horse slaughter legislation. With the upcoming GAO study and current BLM budget deficits, Congress must immediately issue a moratorium on wild Mustang round-ups until the GAO study is completed.

EWA welcomes a GAO study and believes that it will undoubtedly put aside perceptions and propaganda as reflected in the UHC survey and focus on solid statistical evidence. EWA plans to make available to the GAO its considerable statistical research on the subject of abuse and neglect, including the 2008 study done in conjunction with Animal Law Coalition.

Americans should be outraged that Congress allows needed legislation to languish and continually be blocked and stalled by special interest groups that perpetuate the over breeding of horses.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

BLM's Wild Horse Elimination Plan Angers Ecologist

Environment News Service

ELY, Nevada, July 7, 2009 (ENS) - The Bureau of Land Management is planning to eliminate all wild horses from 11 legal herd areas in the agency's Ely District of Nevada, a proposal that has wildlife ecologists up in arms.

In environmental assessment documents, the BLM claims that the 620 wild horses that now live on these lands have inadequate forage and water and are trampling the landscape.

But Nevada wildlife ecologist Craig Downer characterizes the agency's plan as "drastic" and says it is slanted towards satisfying livestock, big game, mining and oil and gas interests without regard for the horses or for the environment.

In a June 27 letter to BLM Ely District Manager John Ruhs, Downer calls the agency's justification for removal of the wild horses "deceptive and untrue."

"You and your team, as public servants, are supposed to fairly represent diverse public interests on public lands, not just livestock, big game, mining and other extractive activities," Downer writes. "What you are proposing and your justification for such constitute an abandonment of duty. You intentionally target wild horses for elimination in order to clear the way for other more politically pushy interests."

The agency's environmental assessment of two of the 11 herd areas, Seaman and White River is typical of the agency's justifications for removing the wild horses.

The Seaman and White River herd areas are located about 80 miles southwest of Ely, in portions of Nye and Lincoln counties.
Wild horses are rounded up by helicopter in Nevada. (Photo by Richard H. Brown courtesy BLM)

Saying that the assessment "is tiered to the Ely Proposed Resource Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement released in November 2007," the agency concludes, "Removal of all wild horses from the Seaman and White River HA's is needed at this time in order to implement this management direction and to prevent further damage to the range resulting from the current overpopulation."

But Downer calculates that the 11 wild horse herd areas cover a total of 1,386,992 acres, which are currently occupied by just 620 horses.

"This signifies 2,237.08 legal acres per remaining wild horse," he wrote in the letter to Ruhs. "Yet you still mean to tell me that in these vast areas wild horses are overpopulated and destroying the ecosystem?! I find this extremely hard to believe, especially given my knowledge of wild horse behavior and ecology as well as public lands politics."

The BLM claims that monitoring data collected during 2007, 2008, and 2009 shows that utilization by wild horses is "moderate to heavy."

"Trampling damage by wild horses is evident at most water developments and riparian areas. Heavy trailing by wild horses is evident throughout the HAs especially areas near water. Excess utilization and trampling is currently impacting range conditions and preventing recovery of key range ecological sites," the BLM environmental assessment states.

Monitoring also indicates wild horses move outside the herd areas in search of water, the BLM states.

Downer argues that livestock fences keep wild horses from accessing the available water, but he is not the only one who questions these findings and criticizes the BLM's plans to remove all the wild horses from these herd areas.

Reno physician Don Molde, M.D. today wrote a letter to Chris Mayer, supervisory rangeland management specialist in the Ely District's Egan Field Office, protesting the agency's plans to eliminate these horses.

Dr. Molde describes a drive he took across the White River herd area on July 5. "On my drive, the ground conditions were breathtakingly beautiful, with greenness, sprouting new vegetation, and lushness. Given what wild horses have to live with in Western Nevada, these conditions represented a remarkably comfortable-looking environment for wild horses which live in that Herd Area. I saw fewer than a dozen wild horses during the 30-mile drive, and the road contained very little in the way of horse droppings," he wrote.

"I note that the BLM claims an absence of water as a primary reason for horse removal. Yet, it appears that in the last 10 years, close to 700 horses were removed from the White River Herd Area, and the current census of animals is estimated at a very modest 168 animals. Clearly, there is water available for that Herd Area," wrote Molde.

Asking that Mayer reconsider the decision to remove the wild horses, Molde writes, "...there are lots of other unanswered questions as well in terms of future plans for livestock use in the Herd Area, wildlife usage (big game species populations, except for mule deer, are at all-time high levels), how much of the damage alleged to be by horses may actually be due to cattle use in the past..."

Downer, who authored the book "Wild Horses: Living Symbols of Freedom," is even more critical of the BLM's plans to remove all the wild horses in the nine other herd areas.

His letter to Ruhs states, "Your injustice toward the wild horses in the nine legal herd areas of the Caliente Wild Horse Complex (Meadow Valley Mountain, Blue Nose Peak, Delamar Mountain, Clover Mountains, Clove Creek, Applewhite, Mormon Mountain, Little Mountain and Miller Flat HAs) is even more egregious!"

"I'm sure you realize that with only 270 wild horses in this vast legal wild horse domain summing to 911,892 acres, there are 3,377.38 legal acres for every remaining wild horse!" Downer writes.

The BLM's environmental assessment appears to contradict itself, saying on the one hand, "The Proposed Action is in conformance with the following goal, objective and management action in the 2008 Ely District ROD and Approved RMP (August 2008): Goal: “Maintain and manage health, self-sustaining wild horse herds inside herd management areas within appropriate management levels to ensure a thriving natural ecological balance while preserving a multiple-use relationship with other uses and resources.” On the other hand, the agency intends to remove 100 percent of the wild horses.

At this point, the BLM plans to gather all the 620 wild horses off these lands by helicopter drives this summer. They would be shipped to BLM holding facilities where they will be prepared for adoption or sale to qualified individuals or long term holding.

Since 1971, when the Wild Horse and Burro Act took effect, wild horses have been zeroed out from 111 herd areas representing over 19 million acres.

The BLM currently has long-term holding contracts with private landowners in the Midwest, where about 22,000 unadopted or unsold wild horses are cared for at an annual cost of about $475 per horse paid by the U.S. taxpayers.

Copyright Environment News Service, ENS, 2009. All rights reserved.

Horse-tripping bill sent to governor


by Betty Reid - Jul. 7, 2009 10:49 AM
The Arizona Republic

Horse tripping, a common sport in small rodeos where a galloping horse is roped to the ground for points and entertainment, would be illegal in Arizona if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the bill state lawmakers sent her last week.

Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams was an advocate for Senate Bill 1115, saying she considers the activity "barbaric."

"Few horses survive and it usually results in broken legs, internal damage, and death," Williams said. "Arizona allowing horse tripping was of great concern to animal rescue and care agencies."

The bill would ban the sport in Arizona counties, cities and incorporated communities and applies to horses, ponies, mules and donkeys.

People who knowingly trip animals for sport would face Class 1 misdemeanor, charges that are punishable by a two days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalties increase for repeat offenders.

The legislation excludes horse racing, training, branding or traditional rodeos such steer roping or bulldogging.

Not many people have heard of horse tripping as a sport because it's an underground sport like dog fighting or cockfighting, according to animal rights advocates, said Judy Lorch, Williams' assistant.

The issue was brought to the councilwoman's attention through the Valley's animal rights groups, Lorch said. Williams, who once supervised the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office's animal cruelty unit, has a lot of contacts, she said.

Two bills about animals were packaged together under SB 1115. The other bill, introduced by Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, would give county officials authority to inspect privately owned dog kennels anytime once a written complaint is filed, Wright said.

Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, sponsored the legislation with the help of Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix.

"This sounded odd and I didn't realize it went on in Arizona," Paton said. "I felt like it was something that needed to be fixed. I don't like to watch animals killed for sport."

Brewer has until Monday to act on it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rescuing an American Icon

From: Pam Nickoles Photography

This is a wonderful story that has come out of the Nebraska situation. Please follow the link to read the story! The pictures are incredible and say so much more than simple words.
"I thought long and hard about writing this particular entry. It’s been such a horrendously heartbreaking event (for many), I just didn’t think I could relive any part of it. However, it seems there will always be some good that shines through a tragedy and my experience is no exception. To do the story justice, I have to start from the beginning.

In the Spring of 2007, I photographed a magnificent tri-colored pinto stallion from the White Mountain HMA near Rock Springs, WY. I have photographed many, many wild horses, but this particular Mustang made more of an impression somehow. To me, he was the epitome of all the exceptional and unique qualities embodied in the wild horses. And for that reason, I vowed that if I ever found out he’d been rounded up, I’d do my best to save him."

Read more....

The Case Against Horse Slaughter in Canada

The Case Against Horse Slaughter in Canada

The Text:

The horse has a status in our society comparable to the dog, cat or other household pet.

Our relationship with them is intimate, we give them names.

The progress of human history has been carried on their backs

They assist us in many different activities and as a working animal.








The path begins when a horse is no longer wanted

Compassionate owners will seek the best solution for their horse’s future

Some people are unaware of the dangers of sending their horse to a rural auction while others only want to make a quick buck

These people send their horse to auction knowing fully that there is the strong possibility of their horses going to slaughter where there are few kind voices or caring touches

The pipeline that supplies the slaughterhouses is very clandestine. Typically, when owners give up a horse, they assume he will end up in good hands. But when that horse enters "the market" he goes into a different world, a world of auctions, price per pound, horse traders, kill buyers and slaughter houses. Everything is shrouded in secrecy. They know how horrible the truth about slaughter really is and don’t want it to be public knowledge.

ð Many horses end up sold for slaughter because they are unwanted or avoid humans (generally because of poor handling or abuse by previous owners)

ð Their suffering is solely caused at the hands of humans - neglect, cruelty and abuse

ð Some are young and have not had a chance at a happy life

ð Many are mistreated to the point of avoiding contact with any humans because of an abusive past

ð Others are older and have had too many hard years of being used as breeders or faithful workers, only to be tossed aside once they are "too old" to be financially viable

ð Many are starved of positive contact, proper food, veterinary attention, and basic every day needs such as worming, hoof care by experienced farriers and veterinarians

Many people don't realize that when they sell their horse at auction there is a VERY big risk that he will be purchased by a meat buyer. The majority of horses sold at rural auctions do go for meat.

At rural livestock auctions, anywhere from 50 – 90% of the horses are bought by the meat buyers - weanlings, yearlings, pregnant mares, mares with foals, broke horses, wild horses, healthy horses, sick horses…



For the novice horse person auction may be looked at as a viable alternative

Investigations have proven that this generally is a poor choice

Your best friend, your horse, can be subjected to horrible abuse and terror
at auction and if bought by kill buyers will often never see food and water again
in his life which will end sometime after the auction.

Horses going directly to the slaughterhouse can go more than 36 hours without food and water. It keeps them quieter for transport and handling but lack of sustenance can cause injury due to weakness and dehydration.

Auctions facilitate the slaughter industry and are dumping grounds for irresponsible owners and also where the discarded foals and used up mares from the PMU industry are dumped

Foals are also a “by-product” of the nurse mare industry

Virtually every horse auction has in attendance KILL BUYERS whose only goal is to buy horses for the slaughter industry

They will buy any horse including mares in foal, mares with foal at side AND foals alone.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


State vet threatens to "dispose" of orphan foals

A wild horse foal stays close to its mother and another horse in the herd as they graze along Lousetown Road in the Virginia City Highlands. Photo by Carl Woodmansee
A wild horse foal stays close to its mother and another horse in the herd as they graze along Lousetown Road in the Virginia City Highlands. Photo by Carl Woodmansee
State vet threatens to "dispose" of orphan foals
By Karen Woodmansee
Virginia City News
Wednesday, July 01, 2009

State Veterinarian Phil LaRussa allegedly threatened to "dispose of" the orphan foals in the care of a Dayton wild horse rescue worker if she did not sign a cooperative agreement with the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

Shirley Allen, who runs the Lucky Horse Rescue Corral in Dayton for Least Resistance Training Concepts, said LaRussa came to her property after she took in an orphaned wild horse foal that residents of Hidden Valley had found on May 23. She named the foal Shelby.

Shortly after the foal was rescued, Allen said, LaRussa paid her a visit and proposed a cooperative agreement that would make Allen a brand inspector and allow the state to give her foals, which are considered state property, for $1 each, and she would be responsible for their care.

"They wanted me to sign a cooperative agreement as a private party, and that's not legal," she said. "So I told them I wasn't comfortable with signing it."

NRS 561.218, Section 2C charges the department to appoint an employee to "cooperate with private organizations and governmental agencies to develop procedures and policies for the management and control of wild horses."

She said LaRussa insisted she be the only party to the agreement, which she told him she could not do because LRTC provided 98 percent to 99 percent of her funding.

"I can't run Lucky Horse Corral alone, and I can't sign it as a private party anyway," she said.

At that point, she said, LaRussa threatened to "dispose of" the foal, which Allen believed was a threat to kill the animal.

"He mentioned four times he would take Shelby and dispose of him," she said. "Disposed of, there's no other word in my vocabulary that means disposed of. Which he knows is a direct threat to someone in the rescue business. When you are a proponent of no kill and no slaughter and they know that, when they start threatening you with disposal of horses, that's coercion."

Allen said she had been doing foal rescues for 13 years, but that officials at the Nevada Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of managing the Virginia Range herds, did not want to work with Willis Lamm, president of LRTC, after Lamm complained about some of the department's actions

"It's a personal vendetta and he's using the foals as a weapon to get his way," she said. "We've tried lots of times to talk matters through. We weren't asking for anything at all and we weren't asking for anything to change at all that didn't need to change. Just to continue making sure foals and other horses were saved."

During their conversation, which was taped, LaRussa said if Lamm had to be involved he would have to "kiss Tony's ass, shake his hand and apologizes," apparently referring to Agriculture director Tony Lesperance.
Allen taped the conversation with LaRussa, as she and some others in the wild horse rescue community had been advised to do by their attorney, and parts of it were posted at

State Department of Agriculture spokesman Ed Foster said the department would have no comment until “the attorney general’s investigation of Mr. Lamm’s Youtube video is complete.”

Lamm said that Nevada law requires that one party to a conversation be aware that the conversation is being taped.

On the tape, LaRussa is heard telling Allen the cooperative agreement did not have to be between the government and a nonprofit group.

"This is an agreement between yourself and Tony to do work for the director to take care of this problem," he said.

Allen replied that LRTC needed to be included.

"My funding, 98 percent of my funding comes from LRTC, the organization that started the whole thing 15 years ago," she said on the tape.

LaRussa said he understood that, and if LRTC was included, Lamm must cooperate.

Allen replied that Lamm would not do that, at which point LaRussa was heard on the tape saying, "You know, we'll take this one back and it will be disposed of…" with the rest of his statement unclear.

Allen responds, "Don't talk to me about any of that."

LaRussa then is heard to say that "we recognize that today, the way things are, that Willis is appearing somewhere in that document, where he might sign it. I can see option number two that Willis puts out 3,000 e-mails saying Tony is wonderful, that he agrees, and he stands in front of the department and shakes Tony's hand."

Allen said she "wouldn't want to go there," and LaRussa said he didn't either.

"But if that does not occur, I do not believe that the director will sign the agreement that has Willis' involvement in it," he said on the tape.

At another point, LaRussa denied suggesting breaking the law.

"We can give you brand inspection clearance and transfer the ownership and you give us one dollar," he said on the tape.

Allen said she was most upset about threats to dispose of the foals.

"He's threatening me, that's how I feel abut it," she said. "He mentioned that (disposing of foals) at least four times.”

Lamm, Allen and Lacy J. Dalton, who founded the Let 'Em Run Foundation have filed a complaint with the state Attorney General's Office asking them to investigate. They say the department was guilty of attempting to sell state property, i.e. the foals, making false reports, falsified certificates and extortion.

Among the items the complaint asks that the Attorney General to do is to intervene to prevent possible disposal of orphan foals and to prevent sale of the foals.

Lamm said the sale of state property complaint was filed because LaRussa offered the foals for $1, though their value on the market would be higher, and NRS requires an organization adopt wild horses out and monitor the adoptions.

"You can't deal horses out the back for $1 each," he said. "If you can take it to Fallon (livestock auction) and get money, it's not an appropriate disposition of state property. If they are placed through a cooperative agreement, they have to be placed through the adoption process, to make sure people are not using state property in a get-rich-quick scheme."

State Attorney General spokesman Edie Cartwright confirmed the department was aware of the issue but declined to give further information.

An investigator could not be reached for comment.

Dalton said state officials would be better off seeking practical and humane solutions to the wild horse issue.

“I really feel their time could be better spent finding a better management program that actually works, including the birth control program that they actually had, rather than trying to coerce people to do things,” she said. “Our government from top to bottom has to start listening to what the people want.”