California Leads Efforts to Protect Wild Horses

You are here

California Leads Efforts to Protect Wild Horses

Enacts legislation to prevent slaughter, promote humane management 

SACRAMENTO, CA (October 18, 2019)... In the final weeks of the legislative season, the State of California enacted important measures to protect the state’s 8,000 federally-protected wild horses and burros.

Over the last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two measures impacting wild horses  into law: 

  • AB 128, authored by Assemblymember Todd Gloria, new state law to better protect wild and domestic horses from slaughter 

  • AB 107, a supplemental state budget bill that included a $160,000 appropriation to support research at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to develop a non-surgical, humane wild horse population management tool.  

“This is key legislation to make sure California’s horse population is not illegally sent to slaughter by the Trump Administration or anyone else,” said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. “Californians have long made clear that we oppose the slaughter of horses. With this bill, we close a loophole that could lead horses to harm. I want to thank Governor Newsom for supporting these stronger animal protections.”

“We’re proud of the State of California for stepping in to lead where the federal government has failed to protect wild horses and promote humane management of these national icons in the wild,”  said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “We thank Assemblyman Gloria and Governor Newsom for standing with the vast majority of Californians who want our wild horses and burros to remain free and protected on our public lands.” 

The legislative action was prompted by the U.S. Forest Service’s plan, announced in fall 2018,  to sell federally-protected wild horses captured from the Modoc National Forest for slaughter. The plan generated strong opposition from the public and California political leaders, including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, 27 members of the California Congressional delegation, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and Assemblymember Todd Gloria and 22 of his legislative colleagues. It exposed both loopholes in federal law and state law, that allow California horses, both domestic and wild, to continue to be sold into the slaughter pipeline. 

AB 128

AB 128, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 12, 2019, aims to improve enforcement of existing California law prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption by: 

  • Requiring auctions to post clear signage notifying buyers that the import, export, purchase and sale of horses for slaughter for human consumption is a felony under state law.

  • Requiring all purchasers of horses at auction in California to sign a sworn statement acknowledging existing state law and affirming their intent not to transfer or sell purchased horses for slaughter for human consumption.

  • Requiring auctions to scan horses for microchips and inspect them for tattoos and brands, and post identifying information online before the horses are sold. 

Humane Population Management Research at UC Davis

AB 107, signed into law by Governor Newsom in September, amended the Budget Act of 2019 to and included a $160,000 appropriation to fund research into a non-surgical, minimally invasive method for mare sterilization conducted by UC Davis veterinary professor Eric Davis, DVM. The method, known as “Endoscopic oviduct ablation,”  will complement the only currently available humane option for population management - the PZP birth control vaccine. Dr. Davis is a leader in the field of equine welfare.

The funding will underwrite Phase 1 of the research into the method, which utilizes an endoscope to thread a small catheter through a mare’s reproductive tract to deposit medical grade superglue on the oviduct (tubes through which the egg passes from the ovary), blocking fertilization and permanently preventing pregnancy. Since the procedure involves no surgical incisions, it is far safer and more humane than the controversial sterilization procedure,  known as ovariectomy via colpotomy, currently proposed by the BLM. Phase 2 will involve a pen trial at a Bureau of Land Management holding facility for captured mustangs. 

As Mr. Gloria stated in his appropriations request,  “This funding would support research to optimize a humane, non-surgical sterilization technique for wild mares (female horses) that would significantly aid our ability to maintain mustang and burro populations in a wild state.”

AWHC is proud to have worked closely with Assemblymember Gloria on both measures to protect California horses. AWHC also thanks Auction Horses Rescue for its expertise and support in developing and passing AB 128, as well as the other humane and horse rescue organizations that endorsed that legislation.