The recommendation came from the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board to the Bureau of Land Management; the board said the best course of action would be to euthanize or sell excess horses which are currently in off-rage corrals and pastures.
The total number of unadoptable horses and burros is over 45,000; these animals are around 5 years old and less appealing to buyers and adopters.
According to The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act of 1971, wild horses and burros are to be “protected from capture, branding, harassment, and death” by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The agency may humanely destroy old and sick animals, as well as humanely capture and remove the animals in order to restore the land.
If an “overpopulation exists on a given area of the public lands,” the proper action can be taken in order to protect natural resources from deterioration.
Wild horse and burro herds have the potential to double in size every four years or so, and as of now there is no effective method of fertility control in order to manage the population.
The largest population of off-range horse and burros is currently on Nevada land, while the smallest group remains in Montana. The total population of roaming animals number over 67,000 and stretches across western ten states.
In fiscal year 2015, the BLM spent almost $50 million in care of off-range animals, making up two-thirds of the wild horse and burro budget.
In response to the government’s ruling, the Humane Society of the United States has launched a petition which aims to call for the protection of the animals. The petition is directed toward the Secretary of Interior and the director of BLM. In a release dated September 9, the senior VP of Programs and Innovations with the organization stated that “the decision…is a complete abdication of responsibility” and pointed to “long-term mismanagement” within the BLM as a contributing factor to the current situation.
In addition to the Humane Society, other animal rights groups have spoken out against the proposal, including In Defense of Animals.
The president of that animal welfare organization stated that “this is the final straw” and “we call on the government to immediately halt the mass horse slaughter plans and revoke BLM’s right to manage public lands” due to ineptitude and failures to properly protect horses.
According to the BLM website, the Bureau’s advisory board is made up of local ranchers, public land users, state and local government officials, and environmental groups. One board member had taken to social media in order to justify the decision and further explain the “plight” of mustang horses while also welcoming feedback and ideas.
News outlets have incorrectly stated that the government “voted” to have the horses euthanized, but this is incorrect. The action currently stands as a recommendation to the BLM and no decision has been made as of yet.