Lawsuits & Public Outrage Halt Dangerous BLM Wild Horse Sterilization Experiments

Washington, DC (September 9, 2016) . . . This morning, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) notified The Cloud Foundation (TCF) and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) that today it cancelled highly controversial sterilization (spaying) experiments on wild mares.

In public statements and testimony, the BLM credited the TCF/AWHPC lawsuit as the reason it was dropping the cruel experiments. 

This reversal comes in the wake of massive public opposition and a spate of legal actions, including a Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed by TCF and AWHPC, seeking an injunction under the First Amendment of the Constitution to allow them to video record the proceedings.

Responding to BLM’s decision to drop the sterilization research, TCF and AWHPC attorney Nick Lawton of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Eubanks, stated:

“The BLM's withdrawal of its invasive sterilization experiments reveals, more than anything else, that the agency knows the public will not accept these inhumane sterilization practices. We sued to protect out clients' First Amendment right to document the BLM's actions and to hold them publicly accountable for their treatment of wild horses. The litigation and advocacy efforts that led up to the lawsuits clearly demonstrate that surgically sterilizing wild horses is not socially acceptable and we are glad the BLM acknowledged this and withdrew the entire Decision Record authorizing the experiments.”

Ginger Kathrens, TCF Executive Director and member of the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, states:

“The sterilization research was a path to destroying wild horses, by destroying the very essence of what makes them wild – their natural behaviors.  Now we must remain vigilant to ensure that the agency does not pursue the 'euthanasia' of wild horses in holding or the castration of wild stallions, and instead works with advocates to develop wide-scale, humane PZP fertility control programs as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences three years ago.”

At the same time as the BLM informed TCF and AWHPC that it was canceling the sterilization research, the BLM National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board passed a resolution urging the  “euthanasia” of wild horses currently in government holding facilities. (Currently 45,000 wild horses and burros are held in short- and long-term holding facilities.)

The resolution is the culmination of decades of BLM mismanagement of wild horses and burros and the public rangelands. Livestock has historically degraded public lands and the BLM has created a crisis both on and off the range by continuing to use roundups and removals to manage wild horses and burros instead using humane fertility control, which has been available for nearly 30 years and is recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

Kathrens was the sole dissenting vote against the Advisory Board resolution calling for the 'euthanasia' of horses in holding. 

Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Executive Director stated:

“While cancellation of the sterilization experiments is a major victory, Americans will not stand by and allow the killing of tens of thousands of wild horses holding facilities. If the agency thought the public was opposed to sterilization, wait until it sees what happens in response to the proposed mass killing of these American icons." 

On August 15, 2016, TCF and AWHPC filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to stop the experiments unless the agency allowed public observation and videotaping of the invasive procedures. 

Government lawyers this morning informed the groups that that the agency did not intend to pursue the surgical sterilization of mares at this time, if ever.

The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. Cloud is the subject of Foundation founder Ginger Kathrens' groundbreaking PBS/Nature documentaries.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is a national wild horse advocacy organization whose grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.