Our Work At Roundups: AWHC Isn’t Staying Silent in the Face of Abuse

(September 18, 2020) We share people’s anger and frustration about the continued abusive wild horse and burro BLM roundups, and we want you to know what we are doing about it, with your continued support and participation.

1. Spreading awareness

The roundups occur out of the public eye in remote areas of the West. We send observers to the roundups so the public can see what is going on. We observe and document the roundups to hold the BLM accountable for its inhumane practices and to educate the public about the atrocities that are occurring on our public lands. In fact, it is our right as citizens to observe government activities.

The BLM has tried to restrict this right in the past, and we sent letters, formal complaints and, in the case of the agency’s proposed mare sterilization research, filed a lawsuit to guarantee our right to continue to document and share BLM roundups and other activities with you. Public education is the foundation that we must build on to make lasting change. Wild horses have powerful enemies -- wealthy lobbying entities like the Cattlemen’s Association, Farm Bureau, and now even big humane groups.

We have the power of the people on our side, but to harness it, we must first let people know what is happening. Even today, most Americans don’t know about the plight of wild horses and burros. When they learn about it, they are outraged. It’s our job to build public awareness and the grassroots army necessary to rise up and force change. Observing, documenting, and disseminating video and photos of the roundups is essential to this task.

We are making progress on Capitol Hill for wild horses and burros. With the help of our advocacy partners, we were able to secure and pass an amendment in the House which would require the BLM to use at least 10% of it's budget on humane fertility control as an alternative to roundups and removals. The Senate now needs to follow suit. Take Action here: https://wildhor.se/ContactSenate

2. Filing Lawsuits

On our litigation page, you will see that we are in court consistently on the wild horse issue. While we would like to be able to go to court to stop every issue as it arises, litigation is expensive and far from certain. Many factors need to be considered with each new case we bring, such as what court we are in, what state we are in, what circuit we are in, which judge we are likely to get assigned, and whether the case law in that jurisdiction is helpful or harmful to the wild horse issue. If we rush into court without a strong legal foundation, we won't just lose, we'll also create bad case law that negatively affects future cases that we and others will file. When we file litigation, we do so strategically and use our resources wisely by choosing cases that will chip away at BLM's most egregious practices.

When it comes to helicopter roundups, we are documenting and looking for opportunities to challenge BLM's roundup practices more broadly in the near future. As we have seen in past cases brought by other groups over BLM handling practices at roundups, a legal challenge against specific instances of inhumane treatment at a roundup is unlikely to provide us with our desired outcome -- a permanent stop to the roundup. While some groups were able to get temporary relief in a court, even that court quickly refused to extend relief beyond a temporary solution. Complicating the situation is the fact that the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) that we believe the BLM consistently violates during roundup operations, is an internal policy that is not based in law or regulation. Think of it like a code of conduct at work.

In short, when we file a case, we are looking to make real, lasting change for our wild horses and we are seeking to avoid creating bad case law that negatively affects future litigation. We are currently evaluating what a stronger legal case would look like, and will update you as soon as we file our next suit!

AWHC has a small but mighty team of staff and experts who work tirelessly, on the Hill, in the courtroom, on the range, and through the administrative process to help save wild horses. We’ve also filed formal complaints with the BLM in the states where the roundups are happening and brought these cruel instances to the attention of Congressional oversight panels.