Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Vet Claims Vast Mustang Experience, Challenges Winand

Horseback Magazine

Challenges Winand's Right to Speak Out

The following is from Dr. Don Hoglund, MS, DVM. He has asked that we print his letter using full paragraphs if we quote him.
Hoglund is writing in response to my recent article in Horseback Online quoting Dr. Nena Winand of Cornell University regarding what she claims is BLM’s incompetence in caring for the wild horses in captivity.. While we firmly believe she can defend herself and her words with erudition, we believe her detractor clearly missed her point by taking umbrage at her characterization of the gather of wild horses in Nevada and their later treatment as an “outrage” as quoted in Horseback Online. She is speaking of wild horses developing metabolic disorder in captivity saying:
“How does the BLM propose to manage upwards of 30,000 horses out East, and presumably rely on private individuals to supervise them?” she asks. “Not all Mustangs would be predisposed to develop this problem, but certainly some will if not managed with insight and oversight. Who pays for that?”
Winand says there are also genetic issues she has raised with other vets.
In short, she sums up her feelings regarding BLM’s veterinary treatment of wild horses in four words.
“It is an outrage,” she says.”
Hoglund charges Winand is out of line in expressing her First Amendment right to free speech in describing her feelings toward what she perceives professionally to be incompetence on the part of BLM veterinary practices. In fact, we wish more courageous veterinarians would speak up when they see callous disregard for the wellbeing of horses, or outright professional incompetence on the part of veterinarians who are charged with their care.
We strongly disagree with Hoglund and fully support Winand’s courageous stand.
Finally, Hoglund criticizes Horseback Online for our use of the term “Mustang” in describing the wild horses of the West. Perhaps he should also include the BLM itself which sponsors “Extreme Mustang Makeover” events in partnership with the respected Mustang Heritage Foundation from coast to coast to encourage adoption of some of the horses it takes from their native habitat. Horseback Magazine has enthusiastically supported this program since its inception and continues to do so. And yes, we’ll continue to call them Mustangs like the rest of America.
We happily print Hoglund’s letter to us in full. We also welcome reader comments. Send your thoughts to texasmagazine@hotmail.com.
Steven Long, Editor
Dear Mr. Long,
If you plan to harvest my statements for publication, I presume you will print in full paragraphs, all of my e-mails.
With reference to your article Jan 3, 2010 "Cornell Vet Raises Concerns...":
Let's begin here, and do check with Dr. Winand on my first remark, below;
"In short, she sums up her feelings regarding BLM’s veterinary treatment of wild horses in four words. "“It is an outrage,” she says."
When you state ["In short,...]" I am assuming you are paraphrasing Dr.Winand. Since I conducted 7 annual federal competitive bid contracts for veterinary care with the BLM/prison Inmate horse training programs and was, as a result, nominated by Bill Richardson (D) New Mexico as Congressional Veterinarian of the Year for 1988, I hope you are not also referring to my veterinary treatment then - as an outrage. In defense of the current veterinarians on BLM/USDA staff, it is highly unlikely that Dr. Winand is referring to the veterinary treatment partof the captures as an outrage. However, if she stands by that statement in your article then we can contact the dean of her college, the dean of the biomedical college at Cornell, and the state of New York veterinary medical board and find out if she actually meant "Veterinary treatment," or actually she was referring to the "means and manner of capture" as outrageous. I will look into this quote because veterinarians use their states' board of veterinary medical examiners to conduct review of performance and do not rebuke colleagues in professional or lay-market articles. I'd check into this if I were you, Mr. Long.
I have no problem with the "metabolic syndrome," argument that Dr. Winand described. Once adopted into the domestic population I've seen more potential metabolic syndrome cases in the pony and northern European breeds and in the outer banks horses of the east coast than in formerly free-roaming horses. Over-feeding is a problem in all horses, just as is the polar-opposite - starvation.
I disagree with the use of the term Mustang. If we agree that mustang derives from mustaƱo, meaning - loosely - owner-less, then owner-less is not really a term that describes the horses that Dr. Winand mentions. Tribal horses are Native American horses and horses on military reservations are military horses. The other free-roaming horses are state or federal public horses, even if crossing onto or through private land. None are really owner-less. They are free-roaming and not all are protected by the federal "Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, as amended." Feral is a construct used by stategovernments meaning estray, usually falling under estray laws, to describe a once domesticated, gone-loose animal.
With respect to the humanitarian Pickens initiative; per your article - "Winand has high praise for Madeleine Pickens plan to house wild horses captured by the BLM on a million acre facility in the West.
Thus far, the billionaire wife of philanthropist T. Boone Pickens hasbeen rebuffed by the BLM." There are at least two problems with this paragraph. All of us, with you included I presume, thought that the Pickens initiative was to be self-funded from their personal treasury. 
We were all very impressed by that humanitarian effort. 1) When the Pickens platform suddenly asked for a federal stipend, they left out the federal bid legal requirements. If the federal government had paid the $500 per horse per year fee requested and the Pickens's took all 33,000 captured, formerly-free-roaming horses, that would be a (33,000 times $500 per year =~ $45,000 per day) stipend. Now, I ask you, what ranch owner from North Carolina to California would refuse that contract? It would be better located in the grasslands states since the horse is a grasslands animal. So, just as the law requires of the BLM, the BLM requested bids and smartly limited the number of horses per bid. 2) The BLM did not rebuff the Pickens effort. It was not legal to have the taxpayer dollars pay for horse maintenance unless a competitive bid was called for, posted, and legally executed. You forgot to mention that fact in your article.
Since the horse is a grasslands animal, decades ago I advised the BLM to set the sanctuaries in grasslands states. They didn't need my advice, they chose smartly and placed them in Oklahoma and Kansas.
I agree, cold weather is not a great time to capture any horse. How many cold-weather captures have you attended?
In my estimation, the free-roaming horses should me managed in the
wild, using fertility control and other non-lethal measures for population control, studied by taxpayer funded research through the 10 state universities where free-roaming horses live, managed by the 
Natural Resource departments, and if a free-roaming horse is captured it should be trained by one of the active four remaining prison inmate horstraining programs. The free-roaming horse population should never drop below 26,000 in the ten western states, where they currently exist.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century nearly two million wild horses, or mustangs, graced the western ranges, the rearing stallions – tails and manes flying – were almost mythical symbols of freedom, independence, and endurance. By 1970 free-roaming horse numbers on western states’ public lands were pared down to nearly 20,000 animals. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (Public Law 92-195) was enacted to protect the remaining wild horses where then found on forty-seven million acres which became divided into three-hundred and three herd management areas.
Sadly, within the last thirty years, some members of congress have worked tirelessly to zero-out over a quarter of the originally preserved acreage and have eliminated one hundred and eleven of the wild horse herd areas. The traumatic capture and adoption of free-roaming horses have been so successful, that six of the original sixteen western states that were home to wild horses in 1971 no longer have herds. Due to recent federal legislation by politicians beholden to private enterprises, free-roaming horses could vanish from the American west. What will the future hold for these noble creatures who are direct descendants of horses that once hauled us across the frontiers of America and helped us build a nation?
Today, the attitude of “Live and let live,” when applied to the environment, just doesn’t work. Human population growth, urban sprawl, and natural resource development have made it necessary to manage everything – even wild things. So, to preserve the wildness and the world we love, we must intervene to save these free-roaming horses. The first intervention might be to detoxify the vocabulary.
If you ask anyone vaguely familiar with horses about free-roaming American equine issues, be prepared to spend considerable time in debate. There are plenty of valid viewpoints, several of which are quite emotional. The multitude of positions has created a deafening whirl in the halls of Congress as well as out on the western rangelands. Concerns for and about wild horses pit urbanites against ranchers, public servants, and horsemen. For instance, just referring to free-roaming horses as wildlife is a great way to get bogged down in arguments, even law suits, about definitions. What distinguishes wild from exotic, mustang, feral (ranch horses gone loose), or indigenous? The truth is that, when cornered, free-roaming horses have plenty of equine wildness in their behavior, and it is that very wildness that captures the human imagination. Calling them ‘free-roaming’, as found in federal language, allows the discussion to concentrate on the horses themselves as a unique environmental and national treasure. The key is to find palatable, long-term solutions to preserve them, while at the same time protecting the environment and the interests of private citizens.
As an equine veterinarian and professional horse welfare advocate with 23 years experience in dealing with and training thousands of un-gentled horses captured in western and eastern states, I completed seven annual contracts as the attending veterinarian with the Bureau of Land Management and New Mexico prison inmate horse training programs. I also provided the onsite technical support, veterinary care, and adoptions program for the rescue of the White Sands Missile Range horses from which Nobody’s Horses arose.
From my perspective, in order to comprehend this often emotional debate, we must understand that there are two major horse populations in the United States; the domestic, private property horses and the publicly-owned, free-roaming horses found in the wild in many states or held in federal captivity awaiting fate. Only some of the free-roaming horses in the western states fall under the federal protections of ‘wild’ horse law. The other free-roaming horses, east or west of the Mississippi River, are on sovereign lands, military reservations, park service lands, federal lands not covered by ‘wild’ horse law, or on private property. In these various places the horses are either not protected by any law, as in the feral designation, or they are only protected by state and/or local laws. I consider only the federally protected, free-roaming horses in this discussion.
At first glance and because Nobody’s Horses is a book about free-roaming horse rescue, the domestic group of equine might easily lope out of this discussion because they fall under the purview of domestic property law. Not so fast. Though the domestic population of 9 million horses is privately owned, current congressional potential for prohibiting horse slaughter for human consumption is locked between forces supporting and opposing such federal legislation. Because debate revolves around the acceptability of the slaughter of any horses, the fate of free-roaming horses enters the fracas. The publicly owned, free-roaming horse populations – hoofing out a living mostly on public lands – counts at about 64,000 head total. About one-half of these highly regarded horses – in effect, John Q public horses and taxpayer assets – range freely in ten western states. The discussion will return to their destiny later. The other 30,000 head, to the disquiet of some vocal sympathizers, are imprisoned in protected holdings called sanctuaries or in federal stockyards awaiting adoption to loving homes or death by law.
As of this publication and regardless of logical or emotional perspective, three statements can be made. Free-roaming horses are still being captured even though 30,000 are already detained and munching out a life in taxpayer funded holding areas. Some captured, free-roaming horses are not federally protected from commercial slaughter. Domestic horses including some of the refuges from the wild life are not protected from human consumption. How did this trifurcation and resultant anxiety come about, this time? I say Senator Burns and his colleagues in Congress forgot about the determination of wild horse advocates. Or did they?
In 2004, due to the Burns Amendment change in wild horse law, 8,000 of the imprisoned equine captives that are deemed not-adoptable are likely headed for a cold meat-hook. As the Burns Amendment would have it, regulatory protections for wild horses managed by the staff at the Bureau of Land Management and its counterpart in the Department of Agriculture were changed. Senators had written into the 3,300-page federal budget a mandate that the BLM sell to the highest bidder wild horses deemed not-adoptable. In April of 2007 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 249 which would restore the prohibition of the commercial sale and slaughter of captured, free-roaming horses and burros. That bill would overturn the Burns Amendment and it currently resides in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Ultimately, like it or not, the fate of those currently corralled, but not adopted, 30,000 free-roaming horses revolves around potential adoption, commercial slaughter, or daily confinement at a taxpayer expense predicted at $2,700 per horse for the remainder of his life. The Burns Amendment remains intact and that is a dilemma for taxpayers, federal officials, lawyers, and animal advocates.
My current concern is for the destiny of the few remaining free-roaming horses that fall under the often amended and notably weakened protections of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Their fate gyrates about the phrases “capture for adoption,” versus “in-the-wild” management.
Dr. Kathleen Fagerstone of the USDA Wildlife Services tells us that “for most of the last century, federal and state wildlife conservation agencies in the United States have focused on conserving or increasing populations of many species of wildlife. The changing cultural values and increasing urbanization of the United States are curtailing traditional wildlife management tools used to effectively manage conflicts between human and wildlife populations. A growing interest in non-lethal methods for [animal] population control [in-the-wild] of nuisance or damaging wildlife species has fostered research in wildlife contraception.” Due to the fact that contraception for wild or other free-roaming animals is now possible, thanks to advances in scientific research, this method of population control is gaining favor in the hearts and minds of horse advocates and wild horse critics alike.
Dr. Gary Killian, a distinguished professor and fertility control expert, notes, “There are lots of factors that need to be considered, not to mention the fact that mares that are contracepted tend to live longer. Decreasing the death rate will add to the total population. I guess if fertility control of free-roaming horses were easy, it would have been done already. At least we have some tools now like immunocontraceptives that have potential to be useful if we could overcome the politics and figure out how best to apply them.”
So what are equine immunocontraceptives? How do they act to reduce birth rates? Who is against their use, and why?
USDA Wildlife Services at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado began developing wildlife contraceptives in 1991. Scientists both here at affiliated universities and private companies have steadily worked toward developing and registering contraceptive products that are practical and safe for animals and humans. In 2005, the regulatory authority for wildlife contraceptives was changed from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Currently, two immmunocontraceptive vaccines, the Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) and the Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) vaccine have been tested to prevent pregnancy in free-roaming horses. Both come in a liquid form for injection by needle or bio-bullet. (Inter-uterine devices (IUDs) have also been tested, but with only limited success.) These two vaccines use the animal’s immune system to produce antibodies against reproductive hormones, gamete (egg) proteins, and other proteins essential for successful reproduction. In other words, the antibodies interfere with the natural activity of the reproductive agents. The vaccines can now be made so as to be effective contraceptives for 1 to 4 years or longer. Neither is a hormone, nor does it have hormone-like activity.
GnRH Vaccines are not hormone injections
The GnRH vaccine creates antibodies that interfere with the reproductive hormone in both sexes by causing blocking of biologically active GnRH. The result causes a reduction in the release of other reproductive hormones and silencing the activity of the gonads.
Fagerstone et al report that blockade of mammal GnRH is effective in reducing fertility in most mammals, including rodents. The contraceptive effects of a single-shot GnRH vaccine lasts for at least four years. As of October, 2006 in the fourth year of Dr. Killian’s well-refined study of the GnRH vaccine GonaCon ™ , half of the mares are still open (not pregnant). In preliminary studies with white-tailed deer using a modified GnRH vaccine, GonaCon-Blue™, 80% of the females are infertile four years following a single vaccination.
A recent USDA “Target Safety Study” completed for the FDA in collaboration with Dr. Killian’s group at Penn State University, “did not find any contraindications associated with GonCon use.” GnRH vaccines can cause sterilization, but only if administered repeatedly. Hence, GnRH vaccines need to be used judiciously by knowledgeable, experienced handlers. The GnRH vaccine has been submitted (approved 2009) to the EPA for registration.
PZP Vaccines – currently are 1-2 years in duration
The Zona Pellucida (ZP) is a naturally produced glycoprotein layer located on the outer surface of the egg which is produced in the ovary of the mare. Use of the PZP vaccine results in infertility either by blocking sperm from penetrating the zona pellucida layer or by interfering with egg maturation. According to Fagerstone, “The advantages of PZP are that, because PZP is a protein broken down in the gastrointestinal tract when consumed, it does not enter the food chain [if a vaccinated horse were eaten]. Also, its effects are normally reversible. It is not species specific and is effective in reducing fertility in most mammals tested. The disadvantages are that PZP vaccines must be applied by injection.” Other significant disadvantages with PZP vaccines exist. The vaccinated mares continues cycling and thus remains a target for stallions, where as pregnancy would limit that harassment. Also, it is unknown if ovary destruction occurs as a result of the antibodies. In some instances, when the antibodies level drops below critical thresholds (as the vaccine effects wear off), late-term pregnancies may occur complicating the winter life of the mare and the new born foal.
Long-term studies involving GnRH and PZP vaccines on white-tailed deer (Miller et al. 1999 and 2000) showed no adverse effects on the animal’s health. For the GnRH vaccine, altered heat-cycles in the deer were seen and expected. The same can be anticipated for horses.
There are of course concerns that must be addressed when using contraceptives to control overpopulation in free-roaming horses. Any program will need to be funded, easy to administer, cost-effective, effective for multiple years, and have few or no known contraindications (adverse effects). Currently, since the vaccines are injectable, horses must be captured and processed or shot from a remote location with a dart or bio-bullet. Even though capture for processing is traumatic and inherently violent, study of vaccine efficacy and horse health necessitates a close relationship to the target animal. Aerial facilitated darting or use of bio-bullets can be inefficient, and these types of vaccination methods make research study of the health and biomedical effects of the contraceptive difficult. The darting process has the potential to leave a mechanical dart in the environment. Further, annual capture of free-roaming horses for booster vaccination usually becomes more difficult with each subsequent attempt. This is not economical and from a behavioral perspective it is not logical. A vaccine that is effective for multiple years is better and less costly than a one - or two-year vaccination.
There are other considerations to take into account when attempting to control herd size. Is the population “open” or “closed” to migration from other herds? What are the sex ratios, age structure, and the natural estimated increase or mortality of the targeted herd? Researchers have produced various models, some of which suggest that animals which give birth at 3 years of age, as horses generally do, will need more interventions than simply contraception in order to maintain a herd at a desired population. These additional interventions include capture and removal, redistribution of family groups to lands allotted for herd management, or in the case of game or nuisance wildlife, lethal control. Of course, lethal control was not an option for free-roaming horses, until recent legislation.
Contraceptive treatment to manage free-roaming horse populations in the wild must take into consideration the average age of the animals involved. Dr. Killian astutely observes that ‘if younger mares have had one or two foals, they have contributed to the gene pool, and additional foals with their genes are not needed” to keep the genetic pool intact. In addition, due to the difficulties of gathering an entire free-roaming herd for vaccination, there will always be a number of untreated mares in any given population.
I agree with Dr. Killian’s suggestion that “The bottom line is there are some reasonable one-treatment options that will be available for contraception of mustangs in the near future. These far surpass anything currently being used for mustang contraception. What has to happen is that the public needs to drive the course of action. In my experience, the people with the dollars and currently in charge of dealing with the [horse] problem are set in their ways and have different ideas about how to proceed.”
The wild horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland have set the precedent for true art in the fertility management and adoption of free-roaming horses. Thousand Welcomes Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the Foundation for the Shackleford Horse in Beaufort, North Carolina, the National Parks Service at Assateague Island National Seashore Trust in Maryland, and the Chincoteague
National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia are notable examples of farms and organizations who have proven their love and respect for historical America and free-roaming horses.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is correct when it writes that “Solutions need to be implemented that will allow wild horses to be managed in the wild, securing a place for our wild herds in the American landscape. AWHPC is calling for fair and balanced management decisions that are based on accurate, scientific information and that take into account the interests of all parties, including the horses, public land ranchers, and the American public.” AWHPC supporters are against the use of hormones as contraceptives.
I don’t know if all sides of the free-roaming horse debate can be placated, but I do agree with AWHPC when they say that ecotourism should also be given a chance to play a role in herd preservation. “Horse lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, as well as those with an interest in the history of the Old West, should be given the opportunity to enjoy wild horse excursions year-round. In addition to non-intrusive observation of wild horse behavior and herd dynamics, in-the-wild management itself could become part of a unique experience for visitors to herd management areas.”
As an equine veterinarian who has spent his professional life protecting the publicly owned free-roaming horse, I understand the legitimate concerns of all interested parties, cattlemen included. However, I feel that we need to protect our public property first, while we weigh the proper stewardship, transport, and disposition of this revered part of our American spirit. I am not accusing our Interior Department and USDA land managers of mismanagement. My experience with the staff in these entities has been trusted and respectful. Most public servants and land managers tell me that they want to manage the free-roaming horse in the wild. They need the proper laws, dedicated staff, time, and mandated funding to do it right and to study the effects of the management tools.
The agriculture and veterinary medical colleges in states with free-roaming horse populations are a great mechanism of public oversight and could be recruited to assist these agencies and keep academic research and influence involved. After all, we trust the schools to teach and lead our young people, and since we already employ the staff and faculty, why not trust them to care for our free-roaming horses, too? It would be a perfect outdoor laboratory and a good use of public funds.
Judiciously applied fertility control contraception will go a long way in maintaining horse populations at desired levels. However, when environmental study indicates that any given population of free-roaming horses needs to be artificially lowered by capture, I suggest the captives be remanded to the good and effective wild horse
prison inmate training programs. In this manner, free-roaming horses are gentled under a humane and controlled system before they are released into a domestic equine life.
Many cattle growers would applaud effective free-roaming horse population control. Animal advocates should be pleased with preservation and limited captures. Wildlife managers would welcome the funding needed to appropriately manage all of our important wild species. Slaughter of free-roaming horses would not be necessary because the horses would either be returned to freedom after being examined and vaccinated, or gentled in a prison training program and sold to responsible owners. One in ten thousand horses is truly not amenable to gentling. Those few might be neutered and returned to their original herds. We can’t manage one million free-roaming horses, but we can manage enough to be meaningful. Should we tolerate the possibility of zero free-roaming horses?
Even though emotion about the issue of free-roaming horse survival often takes us to places we do not want to go, we should allow reasoned passion from the heart to direct our efforts. We should protect all of our animal species from birth to death with intervention only when necessary and always as humanely as possible. If we choose to terminate animal life, we should do so humanely.
It is time for solutions: not finger-pointing; not just words. It is time for action. Funding will be required. Help save the free-roaming horse from destruction. Contact your elected representative and respectfully ask them to get involved in the management of free-roaming horses in-the-wild. After all, the horses belong to all of us, the land belongs to all of us, and the elected representatives who control our money work for all of us. These nobody’s horses are everybody’s horses.
This author does not consider hormone injections a viable option for contraception in free-roaming horses. Oral vaccines for fertility control in horses are not yet available.
™ - National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, USDA, Animal Plant Health Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.
Safety and Toxicity Evaluation of GonaCon TM Immunocontraceptive Contraceptive Vaccine in White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
SpayVac ™, a long acting PZP vaccine, is not currently in production (personal communication).

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