Congress Poised to Strip Wild Horses of Federal Protection, Opening Up Backdoor to Slaughter

Washington, DC (May 2, 2017) … Yesterday, the Congress released an Omnibus spending bill that opens a back door to sending potentially thousands of wild horses and burros into the slaughter pipeline.  The language in Section 116 of the bill allows BLM to strip wild horses of federal protection and transfer them to states and local governments for use as “work animals.” Although Congres added prohibitions on sale for slaughter and some restrictions on the use of "euthanasia," singaling its intent to prevent the killing of healthy wild horses and burros, ambiguities in the law leave it open to abuse. As a result, the new language coud expose thousands of healthy wild horses and burros to destruction, either directly or by sending them into the slaughter pipeline.

“The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is outraged that the Omnibus spending bill will strip up to 50,000 wild horses and burros of federal protections that were passed unanimously by Congress and have been in place for nearly 50 years,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. “We’re especially upset that Congress is authorizing the killing of horses of ‘advanced age,’ which could mean thousands of healthy middle- to older-aged horses will be destroyed.”

According to AWHC, the Section 116 language contains numerous loopholes that could spell disaster for wild horses and burros. These include:

-       No provisions for accountability, transparency or accounting for the fates of transferred horses and no penalty for violating the provisions. 

-       Allows the “euthanasia” of healthy horses due to “advanced age,” a term that is not defined. This could subject thousands of older horses who are currently protected under federal law to being killed.

-       Does not prohibit receiving agencies from transferring horses to third parties that could then kill the horses or burros, so long as it was for “non-commercial purposes.”

-       Provisions for “immediate” transfer could result in unbranded horses being sent to local and state agencies. These unbranded horses would literally be untraceable if/when they entered the slaughter pipeline.

“This devastating provision guts a unanimously passed act of Congress and defies the will of the American people,” Roy continued. "We call on Congress to remove the Section 116 provision from the 2017 Omnibus, or, if this is not possible, then by fixing this problem when this legislation expires in five months.”

The Section 116 language can be found on page 804 at this link.


The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) (formerly known as the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse 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.