Letter to your vet

Dear [Name of Veterinarian]:

I just learned that the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) is circulating and seeking input on a draft position statement on wild horse and burro management in the West. It's based on one-sided information provided by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and endorses slaughter, surgical sterilization, and massive removals of wild horses and burros as management tools.

Unfortunately, the position statement ignores the findings of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in its 2013 report, "Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward." It also ignores the will of the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose killing our iconic mustangs and burros.

The AAEP should ensure that its position statement is not biased or in conflict with existing science.

Would you be willing to send a brief email to Bruce Whittle, Chair of the AAEP Welfare and Policy Committee? For your convenience, a draft email with suggested points is provided below.

Thank you for your consideration,


Draft email for veterinarians to send to the AAEP

Dr. Bruce Whittle, Chair

AAEP Welfare and Policy Committee

email:  brucewhittle@gmail.com

Dear Dr. Whittle:

As a member of AAEP, I want to provide feedback on the draft position statement on wild horse and burro management. The statement is not consistent with the findings of the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) 2013 report, "Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward" and does not take into consideration the opinion of the American public, many of whom are horse owners and our clients.

I ask that the final statement include these points.

1. The BLM’s “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs) for wild horse and burro populations are not transparent or based on science. Claims of overpopulation based on these AMLs are not scientific either.

  • NAS Finding: “How AMLs are established, monitored, and adjusted is not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change.” (p. 11)

2. Surgical sterilization is not an appropriate management tool for wild horse populations because of the health risks involved in performing these procedures on wild untamed horses as well as the changes to the free-roaming natural behaviors that contribute to their survival in the wild and distinguish them from their domestic counterparts.

  • NAS Finding: “The possibility that ovariectomy may be followed by prolonged bleeding or peritoneal infection makes it inadvisable for field application.” (p. 130).

  • NAS Finding: “A potential disadvantage of both surgical and chemical castration is loss of testosterone and consequent reduction in or complete loss of male-type behaviors necessary for maintenance of social organization, band integrity, and expression of a natural behavior repertoire.” (p. 124)

3. “Unrestricted sale” should continue to be prohibited. Lifting the ban on unrestricted sale will allow for federally-protected wild horses to be sold for slaughter in Mexico and Canada for human consumption overseas, a practice overwhelmingly opposed by Americans – including many of our clients.

  • 2017 National Poll: 80% of Americans believe that Congress should continue to protect wild horses from slaughter.

  • 2012 National Poll: 80% of American voters disapprove of allowing American horses to be slaughtered for human consumption.

4. The BLM’s current management practices of rounding up and removing horses is ineffective and must be replaced by humane management on the range.

  • NAS Finding: “Management practices are facilitating high horse population growth rates.” (p. 5)

  • NAS Finding: “Removals are likely to keep the population at a size that maximizes population growth rate, which in turn maximizes the number of animals that must be removed and processed through holding facilities.” (p. 81)

5. The PZP immunocontraceptive vaccine has 30 years of science documenting its efficacy in managing wild horse populations. The NAS recommended the use of PZP as the most promising, currently available method for controlling wild herds, but the BLM has not adequately used it.

NAS Finding: “According to BLM’s presentation to the committee, the agency treated an average of 500 mares a year with the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) vaccine from 2004 to 2010; just over 1,000 were treated in 2011 (Bolstad, 2011). Contracepting 500-1,000 mares a year with a 2-year vaccine will not substantially lower the rate of growth of a population of over 30,000 horses.” (p. 267)   

I hope that the AAEP will ensure that any statements issued on wild horse and burro management incorporate the above information. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.