AWHC Calls for Cancellation of Reno Horse Show Division Featuring Sterilized Fillies


Reno, NV ( September 12, 2018)… The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), the nation’s largest wild horse advocacy group, today called on organizers of the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity event to cancel future plans for a division involving wild fillies who have undergone surgery to remove their ovaries. AWHC blasted the sponsor of the “spayed” filly event – Protect the Harvest – saying that the pro-horse slaughter lobbying group is subjecting healthy young mares to unnecessary, invasive, risky and painful surgical procedures for no reason other than to promote a political agenda.

Protect the Harvest has said that it’s sponsoring the First Annual Wild Spayed Filly Futurity event to demonstrate that removing the ovaries of wild mares is an appropriate and viable tool for managing wild herds. However, the claim – made by a lobbying group that represents ranchers and hunters and opposes all laws to protect animals – directly contradicts the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, which warned in 2013 that ovariectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries) for wild horses is “inadvisable for field application” due to risk of bleeding and infection.

“The only thing that the 'Spayed' Filly Futurity proves is that this extremist lobbying group, Protect the Harvest, is willing to sacrifice the welfare of young mustangs for a public relations stunt,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. “Having three-year-old fillies who have been sterilized perform in a Western horse show has no relevance to using a barbaric ovary-removal surgery on a mass scale in wild horses on the range.”

Scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), the Wild Spayed Filly Futurity will feature 12 three-year-old fillies whom Protect the Harvest bought from the BLM as two-year-olds in 2017, promptly sterilized through an archaic surgery called ovariectomy via colpotomy, and then sold to trainers who were invited back to compete on Friday night.

The procedure involves a veterinarian manually (and blindly) inserting his/her hand into the mare’s abdominal cavity through an incision in the vaginal wall, then using a rod-like tool with a chain on the end to sever the ovaries and pull them out. As demonstrated in this cringe-worthy video of the BLM-contracted veterinarian who performs the surgeries, the procedure is enormously painful.

“Protect the Harvest seeks to normalize the removal of mares’ ovaries – a procedure that is rarely done in domestic horses, and only to address a serious medical or behavioral issue,” Roy continued. “Sterilizing wild horses is nothing like “spaying” dogs and cats, because wild, untamed mustangs cannot be handled or provided with the required follow-up care, including intensive post-operative pain and antibiotic medication and stall confinement to reduce risk of hemorrhage and evisceration, which is an excruciating and fatal condition in which the bowel protrudes through the surgical incision.”

Roy added that the procedure will cause many pregnant mares to abort their unborn foals, and will take the “wild” out of wild horses by destroying their natural free-roaming behaviors, which are protected under federal law.

Protect the Harvest, represents the interests of a small number of mostly wealthy ranchers who hold permits to graze livestock on public lands and receive steep tax subsidies in the form of vastly below-market grazing fees. They view wild horses as competition for cheap forage on public lands and seek to reduce wild horse and burro populations to near extinction level via mass roundups and slaughter. Mass sterilization of horses left on the range is part of the plan for wiping out America’s cherished herds.

In addition to the NAS, numerous veterinarians have warned against the ovary-removal surgery that Protect the Harvest is pushing. One of them is Dr. Robin Kelly, an equine veterinarian who has been practicing for 35 years and who is a member of the AWHC Scientific Advisory Board.

“This procedure is universally considered to be barbaric (compared to other more humane surgical methods) when rarely advised,” she stated of the ovariectomy via colpotomy procedure. “It is always performed in a sterile environment at referral hospitals (not BLM gather yards), but very experienced surgeons prefer other, safer more humane techniques.” 

Dr. Kelly added that the many risks of the colpotomy include difficulty providing adequate sedative levels to keep a mare standing during the extremely painful procedure and the multiple post-operative complications that can result, including excessive bleeding, evisceration, peritonitis, abortion, and colic.

“The sterilization of America’s wild horse herds is unscientific, unrealistically expensive, counter to the will of the American people, and would result in extinction for these iconic animals,” said Roy concluded. “Most of all it’s unnecessary in light of a humane tool for managing wild horses – the PZP birth control vaccine, which is proved to be safe and effective by 30 years of research and field application.”

On its website, Protect the Harvest also asserts that PZP is ineffective, costly, and unsafe for managing wild horses – completely ignoring the findings of the NAS and current research.  In its report, the NAS strongly recommended the use of fertility control, including PZP, instead of the expensive and unsustainable roundups that the BLM currently relies on to remove wild horses from public lands in order to make room for the millions of privately-owned livestock who graze for pennies thanks to taxpayers’ subsidies. 

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.


#   #   #