DENVER (May 14, 2022) — Today, Governor Polis released a statement following a disease outbreak that has resulted in the death of 144 horses at the Cañon City Wild Horse and Burro Facility.
“I am deeply concerned about the tragic death of these iconic animals. I've directed our Department of Agriculture and the state veterinarian to re-engage with the Bureau of Land Management to review the situation and evaluate what can be done to avoid this situation in the future. We have long advocated for the health, safety, and wellbeing of Colorado’s wild horses, and will continue to do so as we seek a humane future for our mustangs,” said Gov. Polis.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) acted swiftly to protect the health and welfare of the animals at the facility. Upon receiving notice of the outbreak, a field veterinarian with CDA conducted a site visit at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) facility and reviewed biosecurity measures with BLM and Department of Corrections (DOC) staff. BLM has implemented a voluntary quarantine of affected horses. CDA continues to work with BLM and DOC to monitor the health and wellbeing of the horses at the Cañon City facility.
Cañon City, Colorado (May 14, 2022) – The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, applauds Colorado Governor Jared Polis for his leadership in directing the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the state veterinarian to re-engage with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to review and evaluate the fatalities of 144 horses at the BLM’s Cañon City holding facility in Colorado in recent weeks.
“Since last fall’s Sand Wash Basin wild horse roundup, Governor Polis has consistently called on the local arm of the BLM to work in partnership with the state to ensure Colorado’s wild horses are being cared for in the most humane way possible. We share his vision in making Colorado a national example of responsible and just herd management.,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. “We are encouraged by Governor Polis’ renewed commitment to fully examine and understand the cause of the Cañon City disease as it is now the deadliest wild horse outbreak in recent history. We will also work to determine if any harm or neglect factored into the deaths of these 144 wild horses under the oversight of the BLM.”
One hundred and forty-four wild horses have died at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s Cañon City holding facility in Colorado over the last 23 days.
The identified contagion is Equine Influenza Virus (EIV), a virus that is routinely vaccinated against in the equine world. All 144 of the deceased wild horses originally came from the BLM West Douglas Herd Area – also in Colorado – and were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against EIV, despite being rounded up in July/August of 2021 and in BLM’s care for nearly 10 months.
AWHC continues to raise questions about BLM’s vaccination policy and about how to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again. The organization suggests a minimum vaccination date upon intake to ensure adequate time for the animals to build up immunity to diseases after entering crowded holding pens.
“The crisis affirms that wild horses are safest in the wild where they have room to roam free. Rounding up horses and putting them in confined and cramped pens isn’t acceptable especially when scientifically proven fertility control treatments — that help manage herd populations in the wild — are being underutilized,” said Roy.
About the American Wild Horse Campaign
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.