Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Humane Society Veterinarian Reports Previously Undisclosed Calico Wild Horse Deaths

Straight from the Horse's Heart

BLM Prisoners from Pryor Mt. Roundup - Photo by Terry Fitch

story by Maureen HarmonayEquine Advocacy Examiner

Deaths: During Round-up 7, Fallon Facility 76, Aborted Foals 39 = 122 Dead Horses

The BLM today released two reports from Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) Veterinarian Dr. Eric Davis, based on his February 13th and March 6th visits to the Indian Lakes Road feedlot where the Calico Mountain mustangs are quartered.

Dr. Davis’s published commentary reveals information about the condition of the captive horses that had heretofore not been disclosed to the public.  Most shockingly, Dr. Davis described the death of a mare and foal on March 6th–deaths which were never included in the “Gather Daily Updates” on that day, or on any other day.  Here is what he said:

“A mare had just given birth at 8am when we arrived.  She had been in labor for about 20 minutes, according to Dr. (Richard) Sanford, who had been through the pens earlier in the morning.  The birth was allowed to continue in the sand lot because separating the birthing mare from the rest of the herd would be difficult and dangerous for the mare and foal.

A short time later, when we were at the chute, one of the hands came to tell Dr. Sanford that this mare had died suddenly.  Though a necropsy was not completed at the time, such an acute death during foaling was most likely due to a ruptured uterine artery.  This is a recognized complication with foaling and is nearly always fatal.  The foal was dead at birth.”

Were it not for the happenstance of Dr. Davis’s visit on March 6th, we would never have learned of these fatalities.  And if public observers had not been present on March 21st, we would never have known of the birth and subsequent death of the short-lived “dun” colt.  How many more deaths have gone unreported?
Dr. Davis pointedly probed some of the BLM’s questionable management practices–such as the use of electric prods to goad horses during loading, unloading, and processing–but seemed to glide over other techniques that have been directly responsible for the deaths of many of the horses.
With regard to the electric prods, on February 13th, Dr. Davis said, “Electric prods were present but were only used when horses could not be coaxed ahead in any other way.”  But by March 6th, he noted that he did not observe the use of electric prods on any horses.  “In fact,” he said, “I did not see an electric prod anywhere around the chute area or anywhere else on the premises.”  Without knowing whether Dr. Davis’s visits were unannounced or anticipated, it’s difficult to know whether the BLM has abandoned the use of electric prods or now simply keeps them out of sight during “official” inspections.

Astonishingly, Dr. Davis accepted at face value, facility veterinarian Dr. Richard Sanford’s opinion that most of the horses who had died had succumbed to hyperlipemia and “refeeding syndrome,” without ever asking to review the individual horses’ laboratory test results.  To his credit, he admitted that this was “an oversight” and said that “Dr. Sanford has been asked to provide documentation.”

But even more troubling, Dr. Davis never investigated two of the most notorious deaths that occurred soon after the actual roundup:  those of the two colts whose feet had sloughed off.  Disappointingly, he seemed to accept as inevitable that some of the young wild horses would suffer serious injuries to their hoof walls and laminae, without questioning whether the helicopter chases themselves are inherently inhumane.


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