2019 Year in Review
We've made a difference in the last seven years fighting to save America's magnificent wild horses and burros. Together, we have:
- Grown our ranks to nearly 1 million citizens strong.
- Defeated attempts in Congress to legalize wild horse and burro slaughter.
- Pushed forward humane management initiatives.
- Set legal precedents that will influence policy for decades to come.
As 2019 comes to a close, we've continued this record of achievement. From scoring additional court victories, to implementing the world’s largest humane fertility control program for wild horses, to passing legislation in California to better protect wild and domestic horses from slaughter, I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished together this year.
This work would simply not be possible without the love, dedication, passion and generosity of our supporters. As you read on to learn about our big wins in 2019 and our small steps toward big impact, please know that these accomplishments are shared with you.
Thank you for your unwavering support ... Onward to 2020!
Suzanne Roy, Executive Director
We Fought Legal Battles and Won
Lawsuit Stops Cruel "Spay" Experiments -The BLM dropped plans to conduct inhumane surgical ovariectomy experiments on wild mares in Oregon after a federal court granted our motion for preliminary injunction to stop the study. It was the third time in as many years that legal action by AWHC and our coalition partners blocked the BLM from sterilizing mares via a procedure that veterinarians call "barbaric."
Lawsuit Stops Slaughter Sale in California - The U.S. Forest Service put an indefinite hold on its plan to sell California wild horses without limitation on slaughter after we filed a lawsuit and the judge ordered both parties into negotiations. The delay gave Congress time to pass legislation to prohibit the Forest Service from selling federally-protected wild horses and burros across the West for slaughter.
Legal Victory Means All Mustangs Count - A federal court ordered the BLM to stop excluding foals and weanlings from official roundup counts, awarding AWHC and our allies another legal victory in the fight to protect the wild horses of the Wyoming Checkerboard. The ruling puts the brakes on BLM’s strategy of removing more horses from the range than disclosed by not counting foals in overall removal totals.
We Impacted Laws.
Congress Protects Forest Service Wild Horses From Slaughter - When the Modoc National Forest in California announced plans to sell wild horses for slaughter, we mobilized strong political opposition, including from U.S. Senator Feinstein, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and dozens of members of the state legislature. In response, Congress included language in the Fiscal Year 2020 spending bill to prohibiting the Forest Service from selling wild horses and burros without limitation on slaughter.
California Passes Horse Protection Legislation - We sponsored state legislation, AB128, in California to better protect wild and domestic horses from slaughter and worked with bill author Assemblymember Todd Gloria, to pass it. AB 128 was officially signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 12, 2019. We also secured state funding in a supplemental budget bill to support research at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to develop a non-surgical, humane wild horse population management tool.
Harmful New Mexico Bill Fails - We worked successfully to quash a dangerous bill in New Mexico that would have placed the fate of the state’s wild horses into the hands of the Livestock Board, providing a mechanism for the removal of all free-roaming horses in the state not protected by federal law. We continue a dialogue with key legislators to ensure better legislation to protect wild horses in New Mexico.
We Filed Suit to Save Mustangs.
Legal Action Aims to Block BLM Mustang Eradication Plan - We teamed up with The Cloud Foundation and Western Watersheds Project to challenge the BLM’s decision to "zero out" (eliminate all wild horses from) the Caliente Herd Area Complex, while allowing more than 4,500 privately owned cows and sheep to graze on public lands there. Our lawsuit aims to stop the mass roundup and removal of the estimated 1,744 federally-protected wild horses living on nearly 1 million acres of public land in Nevada.
We Helped Individual Horses.
Foals Saved from Slaughter - Although we were not able to save the 271 adult wild horses who were rounded up by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe from Palomino Valley near Reno, Nevada in January 2019, we were able to utilize our rescue funds to help save over 30 of the foals ensnared in the brutal capture operation. Our grant to Chilly Pepper Mustang Rescue enabled the purchase and rescue of these innocent babies, who have since been placed in permanent homes.
Orphan Foals Get Critical Care - Our rescue fund provided critical veterinary and supportive care for nine foals, who were orphaned and/or injured on the Virginia Range during foaling season this year. We’re happy to report that every foal provided with AWHC aid has been adopted into a loving home.
Wild Stallions Assisted - An emergency grant from our rescue fund to Placitas Wild underwrote the gelding of 12 stallions so that they could be placed for training and adoption after being removed from their native land.
BLM Mustangs Rescued from Kill Pen - In July, we rescued four BLM mustangs and a quarter horse mare and her foal from an Oklahoma kill pen just one day before they were shipped to slaughter. Records show that three of the four mustangs were young, and went from the wild to a BLM holding facility to a kill pen in a matter of months. In fact, their BLM tags were still around their necks!
The horses are now safe at Freedom Reigns Sanctuary in California. Their rescue has become a significant catalyst for investigating the BLM-slaughter connection and educating the public about the limitations of adoption as a pillar of the agency’s wild horse and burro program.
By The Numbers:
Petition signatures gathered: 662,000
Public comments submitted: 115,000
New supporters added: 155,000
Fertility control treatments delivered: 1,280+
Media mentions: 96 (8 x per month)
Freedom of Information Act requests submitted: 28
We Collaborated to Keep Wild Horses Wild.
A key part of our mission is partnering with government and local organizations working to humanely manage local herds. In 2019, we:
Assisted the Wild Horses of America Foundation in Utah with the creation of an online identification database for the Onaqui wild horses and by providing darting support for its fertility control program (Over 80 mares darted in six days!)
Sponsored Year 1 of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group's fertility control program in Arizona thanks to a grant from the Park Foundation.
Organized a darting class in Reno by the Science & Conservation Center, resulting in the certification of new darters for our Virginia Range fertility control program and other Nevada efforts.
Worked with the Battle Mountain BLM office to advance fertility control programs for wild horses in local herds within those districts.
Sponsored a Large Animal Rescue Training and Certification class organized by Least Resistance Training Concepts for volunteers helping with wild horse issues in Nevada.
We Demonstrate that Humane Management is Possible.
AWHC oversees the largest humane fertility control program for wild horses in the world. We're using the PZP immunocontraceptive vaccine, delivered remotely by darting, to keep a historic population of 3,000 horses on 300,000 acres of land in Nevada's Virginia Range in balance with their habitat.
It’s a unique partnership with the State of Nevada, the business community and local wild horse groups to keep wild horses wild and free on the range, and it’s a great model for management of other mustang herds throughout the West.
Since the program launched in April, our volunteers have delivered over 1,280 fertility control treatments (primers/boosters) to over 800 individual mares -- more than the BLM did all of in 2018!
We Raised Our Voices.
Rallied to save the Onaqui wild horses by launching ‘Save Onaqui’ a grassroots campaign that culminated in online actions and an in-person rally at the BLM Utah state office in Salt Lake City which drew over 100 people from all over the country.
Held a pack congressional briefing to educate staffers about the dangerous wild horse removal plan.
Worked with House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva on a letter to appropriators opposing the HSUS/ASPCA plan to give BLM a $35 million budget increase, which the agency intends to use on roundups and cruel sterilization surgeries. Filed complaints against helicopter contractors violating the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program during various roundups.
Flooded Congressional inboxes across the country during Wild Horse Week in Washington in October.
Created action alerts through which concerned citizens could comment on virtually every federal action affecting wild horses and burros in 2019.
We Educated the Public.
Had boots on the ground at nearly every helicopter roundup. Our videos and photos of these capture operations were seen by millions. This documentation strengthens our legal actions, keeps the public informed, and holds BLM accountable for violations of its own animal welfare policies.
Published Opeds and letters-to-the-editors in national and local media, and wrote in-depth blogs for our website explaining often complex issues surrounding wild horse and burro management.
Campaigned in critical opposition to a dangerous anti-wild horse management plan backed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and, shockingly, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), ASPCA and Return to Freedom. We exposed the mass roundup plan the inevitable outcome- virtual extinction for wild horses and burros on public lands. We published factsheets, Q&As, and press releases, and briefed key lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Obtained national media coverage for the issue and our work, including coverage in the Associated Press, New York Times, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, People Magazine and many more.
Ran targeted digital outreach to extend our social media outreach, raise public awareness and increase our supporter base by tens of thousands.
We Launched Game-Changing Programs.
The American Wild Horse Conservancy is an innovative new AWHC project that focuses on preserving and increasing habitat for America’s wild horses and burros through land purchases, grazing lease buyouts and environmental restoration projects.
The Wild Horse Friendly Beef Project is a market-driven incentive program to encourage ranchers who graze livestock in wild horse habitat to adopt policies that are friendly to these protected animals. This year, we worked with our standards committee to write draft standards for certification as "Wild Horse Friendly."