Media Update: Animal Welfare Violations Mount At the Barren Valley Wild Horse Roundup


Roundup Day 8

Animal Welfare Violations Mount At the Barren Valley Wild Horse Roundup

Foals (baby horses) chased with helicopters and roped; Horses electro-shocked with high-voltage cattle prods

Overview: The American Wild Horse Campaign is raising concerns about mounting animal welfare violations at a (Bureau of Land Management) helicopter roundup of wild horses in the Barren Valley Complex near Burns, Oregon. Of particular concern are the chasing of small foals (baby horses) with helicopters and unusual and abusive handling tactics including use of high voltage electric shock cattle prods on terrified, just-captured wild horses to force them to load onto trailers to be taken to holding pens. 

Quote: “We continue to be shocked by the sheer brutality of the BLM’s capture and handling methods for these federally-protected wild horses,” “I have observed terrified horses, huddled together in the trap, frozen in fear, being beaten with flags, electroshocked and forcibly loaded onto trailers. These actions violate the agency’s own animal welfare guidelines and display a lack of understanding of equine behavior and proper horse handling techniques. They are further evidence of the urgent need to place a moratorium on roundups while these continuing abuses are investigated and Congress holds an oversight hearing on the entire Wild Horse and Burro Program.” - Brieanah Schwartz, AWHC’s Policy and Litigation Counsel who is observing the Barren Valley roundup and is available for comment through Friday. 

Key Points: 

  •  106 wild horses were captured bringing the total removed to 491. There have been six deaths. 
  • Captured horses are in good body condition, despite BLM’s designation of the huge roundup as a drought emergency. 
  • Violations of the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) standards continue. AWHC’s observer has documented BLM personnel and contractors: 
    • Chasing horses with helicopters at a speed that causes foals to be separated from their mothers and left behind, then chased again by the helicopter or wranglers on horseback before being captured by roping. (video here)
    •  The repeated use of electric shock cattle prods on federally protected animals to force them to load onto trailers; (video here). 
      • CAWP guidelines state that cattle prods must be used sparingly, only as a last resort
    •  Repeatedly beating terrified horses with flags in an attempt to load them onto trailers. One instance of this resulted in a young foal getting kicked by a stallion reacting to the flags.
      • Videos here, here and here show excessive beatings of captured wild horses. 
      • Under CAWP, personnel are not allowed to strike or beat a wild horse with flags in an abusive manner. As seen in the videos provided, flag strikes were clearly purposeful and were overly forceful.
    •  Inappropriate handling of horses generally
      • forcibly pulling a stallion into a trailer by tying him to the saddles of two domestic horses (this occurred on Sept 14)
      • knocking a foal to the ground by roping the baby horse from horseback (occurred on Sept. 14
      • using a trap pen that is too small to accommodate the numbers of horses being captured
      • not allowing horses to settle after being captured and before loading onto trailers.
      • High mortality rate at the roundup, with six deaths in five days, including those euthanized for conditions that were non-life threatening and treatable
        •  Yesterday a mare who was missing an eye was captured and was observed to be huddled in the corner, frozen in fear, refusing to remove. It is unknown at this time whether the BLM euthanized the mare 

Videos may be used with credit to the American Wild Horse Campaign

Further Information

AWHC Press Release 9/15/21

AWHC Daily Barren Valley Roundup Reports.

About AWHC

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. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America's wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno