New Gov’t Standards for Wild Horse & Burro Roundups A Charade, National Coalition Says

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New Gov’t Standards for Wild Horse & Burro Roundups A Charade, National Coalition Says

BLM Policy, Released Today, A Step Backward for Transparency and Humane Concerns

Washington, DC -- February 1, 2013 -- Today, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition of more than 50 organizations, harshly criticized the wild horse and burro roundup “animal welfare” and transparency policies released today by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The Campaign called the new policies, which took the agency more than a year to develop, “a step backward” for the humane treatment of wild horses and the transparency of BLM helicopter roundup operations.

AWHPC said the newly-released policies:

  • Flat out prohibit remote cameras on helicopters or trap and holding pens, essential to documenting the treatment of the animals during the roundup.
  • Subject wild horses to livestock industry handling practices instead of more rigorous protections of domestic horse handling procedures.
  • Fail to establish concrete parameters for controversial and abusive handling practices including distance restrictions for stampeding horses and burros with helicopters, temperature restrictions to ensure that roundups are not conducted in extreme temperatures (e.g. sub-freezing), and the electro-shocking of wild horses and burros.

“This new policy is just window dressing. It’s an attempt by BLM to address criticism, but will do nothing to change the practices on the ground at the roundups,” said Deniz Bolbol, AWHPC Communications Director, who has attended numerous BLM roundups. “These same standards were already in place in Nevada when we documented the egregious treatment of wild horses in roundups, including electroshocking of wild horses, beating horses with lunge whips and paddles, and stampeding horses to the point of exhaustion and in extreme, below-freezing temperatures.”

The new policy specifies that BLM should handle horses “consistent with domestic livestock handling practices.” This is a significant step backward from the December 2011 Nevada State Leader’s Intent memorandum which said that such handling should be consistent with “domestic horse handling procedures.”  

“Although domestic horse handling practices are a step above the livestock industry, wild horses are neither domestic horses nor livestock. They are wild animals, and as such, must be humanely managed as a wildlife species on the range where they belong,” said Neda DeMayo, AWHPC founder and CEO of Return to Freedom Wild Horse Sanctuary. “The BLM’s dogged and unscientific insistence on treating wild horses as livestock has led to brutal handling practices and the unsustainable cycle of roundups, removals and stockpiling horses in holding facilities. There are alternatives to the roundups, and this is where our resources should be focused.’  

DeMayo also took aim at the media and public observation policy’s outright prohibition on remote cameras and cameras on helicopters and at trap sites.

“If the BLM feels that its animal welfare standards and practices are acceptable, why would they block measures to improve transparency?” DeMayo continued. “These are America’s wild horses and these roundups are funded by our tax dollars. We have a right to see what’s happening out there.”  

This is the latest attempt by the BLM to water down humane standards. In June 2012 the Battle Mountain District in Nevada released its roundup “expectations,” which itself weakened previously-established protective measures for roundups, such as prohibition on stampeding horses for more than ten miles.



Under the Obama Administration, the Interior Department has rounded up and removed over 35,000 wild horses from their homes on the range on Western public lands. Only a third of these horses have been adopted. Most captured horses are warehoused in holding facilities. Currently, there are more wild horses in government holding facilities (50,000) than are left free on the range (32,000). Wild horses are removed by the thousands from public lands to make room for taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing. Private livestock exceed wild horses on BLM lands by at least 50-1.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.