U.S. House of Representatives Call on U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service to Protect California’s Wild Horses in Modoc National Forest

WASHINGTON (July 15, 2022) — Citing slaughter and animal welfare concerns, Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and over 30 other U.S. House members, today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to implement policies to ensure the welfare of federally-protected wild horses in Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in California’s Modoc National Forest before an upcoming roundup scheduled to take place this fall.

In a letter addressed to the USDA and USFS, the representatives state that they are “troubled by the agency’s continued practice of removing horses from the Devil’s Garden, failure to implement humane and effective fertility control vaccines, and the agency’s adoption and sale practices.”

“Wild horses are beloved creatures who need our protection against inhumane treatment and the appalling horse slaughter pipeline. That’s why I’m pleased to lead my colleagues in Congress on this letter to the USDA and USFS regarding management practices of wild horses at the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in California’s Modoc National Forest,” said Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County). “We are calling for answers on what steps are being taken to prevent wild horses from entering the abusive slaughter pipeline, in addition to the implementation of comprehensive animal welfare standards at Devil’s Garden. I am grateful to the American Wild Horse Campaign for partnering with us on this effort to protect these innocent animals and to all my colleagues who signed on,” the Congressman concluded. 

Rep. Lieu’s letter comes amid other recent national concerns regarding the safety and welfare of wild horses and burros that have been removed from the wild by the federal government and confined into holding facilities,including the death of 146 wild horses in Colorado.

Specific concerns from the letter include:

  • Lack of comprehensive and enforceable animal welfare program;
  • USFS apparent lack of policies and procedures to screen potential adopters and purchasers;
  • USFS failure to freezebrand horses (making them indistinguishable from domestic horses/non-federally protected animals if they are sold at auction, placing them at further risk of slaughter);
  • USFS sale of horses for $25, a low price that makes them attractive to “kill buyers” and puts them at risk for entering the slaughter pipeline;
  • And questions about whether compliance inspections are actually occurring and what methods are used.

In sum, the Members of Congress urged the USFS to place an immediate moratorium on the capture, sale, adoption, and transportation of horses in the Modoc National Forest until an inquiry into the issues raised are completed. Lastly, the Members of Congress  asked the USFS to manage Devil’s Garden horses in a more humane, sustainable manner by implementing reversible immunocontraceptive fertility control vaccines, such as PZP. 

“We applaud Rep. Lieu’s leadership in protecting California’s federally-protected wild horses from slaughter and calling for humane reforms at the USFS program,'' said Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for AWHC. “We ask the USFS to responsibly heed the calls of Congress and place a moratorium on all Devil’s Garden wild horse activities. Wild horses must be managed where they are safest – in the wild – not through without cruel helicopter roundups.”

Said the letter, “The American Wild Horse Campaign offered to implement—and pay for—a program in this area in 2018 but the offer was rebuffed. The USFS removed over 2,400 Devil’s Garden horses between 2018–2021. A vaccine program would reduce the expenditures and need for removal, resulting in a win-win for the welfare of the horses, taxpayers, and the agency.” 


  • The USFS, similar to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is charged with protecting and managing wild horses and burros under the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. 
  • According to its website, the USFS manages about 7,100 wild horses and 900 burros, and these animals are managed in areas known as Wild Horse and Burro Territories.
  • In 2019, several dozen Members of Congress, led by Congressman Ted Lieu, sent a letter to the USFS expressing concern about the agency’s plan to sell wild horses from Devil’s Garden without restrictions on slaughter, which put these animals at significant risk of entering the slaughter pipeline. As noted in that letter, this represents a severe abdication of the government's responsibility to humanely manage these federally-protected horses.
  • Through annual Department of the Interior appropriations legislation, Congress has passed unambiguous language protecting wild horses from destruction for commercial purposes (protecting them from slaughter). 
  • Legislation to permanently end horse slaughter has received significant support in Congress—217 Members of Congress from both parties have co-sponsored H.R. 3355, the Save America’s Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act. This bill recently cleared the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Wild horses are beloved icons of our great country and the American people overwhelmingly oppose horse slaughter.

Additional Information on Devil’s Garden

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.