Senate Says No to Sterilization, but House Says Yes

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SENATE FY 2019 INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS LEGISLATION

On June 15, 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed Fiscal Year 2019 Interior Appropriations legislation that maintains prohibitions on killing and slaughter of our wild horses and burros and does not authorize the mass sterilization of wild herds. Also good news: the Senate’s insistence that management solutions be “politically viable.” This highlights the critical importance of our advocacy efforts – these options are only considered politically non-viable because we are speaking up loudly in opposition to them.

One issue of concern in the Senate report language is a directive to reduce on-range and holding populations of wild horses and burros by methods “within its current authorities” and the committee’s appropriation of $5.5 million “as an initial investment” in a strategy to achieve that goal. While the language doesn’t specify how BLM should reduce the horse and burro population, BLM could try to increase transfers of horses to states and other government entities, as well as, potentially, transfers of large numbers of horses out of the country.  BLM needs to be directed to use the $5.5 million on the one humane and proven method to reduce population growth – PZP – and, with your help, we will continue to push BLM to increase PZP use from the 0% of its budget it currently spends on it. Overall though the Senate action is positive and a clear result of your actions in defense of wild horses and burros.

HOUSE FY 2019 INTERIOR APPROPRIATIONS LEGISLATION

By contrast, the House  FY 2019 Interior Appropriations bill was passed by the Appropriations Committee on June 6 and includes the "Stewart Amendment" authorizing mass sterilization of wild herds, including via risky and painful surgeries like that seen here. The report language accompanying the bill directs the BLM to the regulatory framework to implement a mass sterilization program and lay the foundation for the euthanasia of horses and burros over age 10- barely middle age for most wild horses.

Both bills await final approval by full floor votes. No such votes have been scheduled as yet.

Ultimately, a conference committee will iron out the differences between the two versions of the bills.

This means that we'll have to keep the pressure on throughout the summer and into the fall. 

For now, if you'd like to thank Senators Lisa Murkowski and Tom Udall, chair and ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee for protecting wild horses and burros from mass killing, slaughter and sterilization, you can reach them through the Senate Switchboard at 202-225-3121.

SENATE BILL LANGUAGE

Appropriations herein made shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products….

SEC. 109. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior may enter into multiyear cooperative agreements with nonprofit organizations and other appropriate entities, and may enter into multiyear contracts in accordance with the provisions of section 3903 of title 41, United States Code (except that the 5-year term restriction in subsection (a) shall not apply), for the long-term care and maintenance of excess wild free roaming horses and burros by such organizations or entities on private land. Such cooperative agreements and contracts may not exceed 10 years, subject to renewal at the discretion of the Secretary.

SEC. 112. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of the Interior may transfer excess wild horses or burros that have been removed from the public lands to other Federal, State, and local government agencies for use as work animals: Provided, That the Secretary may make any such transfer immediately upon request of such Federal, State, or local government agency: Provided further, That any excess animal transferred under this provision shall lose its status as a wild free-roaming horse or burro as defined in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act: Provided further, That any Federal, State, or local government agency receiving excess wild horses or burros as authorized in this section shall not: destroy the horses or burros in a way that results in their destruction into commercial products; sell or otherwise transfer the horses or burros in a way that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products; or euthanize the horses or burros except upon the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian, in cases of severe injury, illness, or advanced age.

SENATE REPORT LANGUAGE

Wild Horses and Burros —The Committee appreciates the Bureau’s delivery of the plan of options, as directed by the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, to address the population and cost challenges of this program, but remains concerned that a politically-viable solution remains to be agreed upon while the animal population continues to grow. The Committee notes that a high percentage of funding for this program goes to the housing of horses in long-term pastures and short-term holding facilities, and therefore provides $5,555,000 above the enacted level for the Bureau as an initial investment to implement a multiple-strategy approach within its current authorities that reduces the numbers of animals on the range and held off the range. The Bureau is directed to ensure that the committees of jurisdiction are kept informed of its progress. The Committee continues the current prohibitions on destruction and sale authority contained in the bill.

HOUSE BILL LANGUAGE

Appropriations herein made shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors or for the
sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.

SEC. 109. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior may enter into multiyear cooperative agreements with nonprofit organizations and other appropriate entities, and may enter into multiyear contracts in accordance with the provisions of section 3903 of title 41, United States Code (except that the 5-year term restriction in subsection (a) shall not apply), for the long-term care and maintenance of excess wild free roaming horses and burros by such organizations or entities on private land. Such cooperative agreements and contracts may not exceed 10 years, subject to renewal at the discretion of the Secretary.

SEC. 113. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of the Interior may transfer excess wild horses or burros that have been removed from the public lands to other Federal, State, and local government agencies for use as work animals: Provided, That the Secretary may make any such transfer immediately upon request of such Federal, State, or local government agency: Provided further, That any excess animal transferred under this provision shall lose its status as a wild free-roaming horse or burro as defined in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act: Provided further, That any Federal, State, or local government agency receiving excess wild horses or burros as authorized in this section shall not: destroy the horses or burros in a way that results in their destruction into commercial products; sell or otherwise transfer the horses or burros in a way that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products; or euthanize the horses or burros except upon the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian, in cases of severe injury, illness, or advanced age. 

HOUSE REPORT LANGUAGE

Wild Horse and Burro Management.—The Committee recommends $75,000,000 to implement Public Law 92–195 (16 U.S.C.1331 et seq.) requiring the protection, management, and control of free-roaming horses and burros on public lands, equal to the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $8,281,000 above the budget request.

The Committee notes that its recommendation may change based upon the receipt of additional information prior to enactment of the fiscal year 2019 Interior Appropriations Act.

The Committee appreciates the April 26, 2018, report to Congress titled ‘‘Management Options for a Sustainable Wild Horse and Burro Program’’ and recognizes the challenges Congress, the Bureau, and interested stakeholders face in setting this program on a better course to reduce costs, improve the condition of the range, and ensure a healthy wild horse and burro population. The Committee strongly encourages all parties to work together to address these challenges.

The Committee requests that the Bureau conduct an analysis that identifies factors for success, total funding requirements, and expected results on potential options that (1) remove animals from the range; (2) increase the use of sterilization; (3) increase the use of short-term fertility control; (4) provide an adoption incentive of $1,000 per animal; and either (a) allow animals older than 10 years of age to be humanely euthanized; or (b) prohibit the use of euthanasia on healthy wild horses and burros. The Committee also requests an analysis on (1) options to enter into long-term contractual or partnership agreements with private, non-profit entities to reduce the cost of holding wild horses and burros for their natural lives and (2) the feasibility of assigning full responsibility for care for wild horses and burros removed from the range to these types of entities. The Committee further directs the Bureau to immediately begin designing the regulatory framework and technical protocols for an active sterilization program. The Bureau should ensure it considers the health and welfare of individual wild horses and burros and their populations and evaluates the costs of such a program. It also should draw upon the expertise of Federal, State, and private equine veterinarians, veterinary medical schools, and those with related training and experience. The bill maintains existing protections regarding the sale and use of euthanasia for wild horses and burros and continues two general provisions within Title I allowing the Bureau to enter into long-term contracts and agreements for holding facilities off the range and for the humane transfer of excess animals for work purposes.