Appropriations bill prohibits wild horse slaughter and prioritizes humane fertility control and management
WASHINGTON (July 28, 2023) — Today, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) commends the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations for advancing bipartisan language, included in its Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies funding bill and its accompanying report, to protect wild horses and burros from slaughter, and direct key reforms to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. The Committee further called for the increased use of fertility control vaccines, and allocated $11 million of the agency’s budget toward this humane, proven management method.
Combined with House appropriations legislation marked up last week that also prioritizes humane fertility control and directs the BLM to evaluate alternatives to controversial helicopter roundups, the legislation lays the groundwork for a seismic shift in the way the agency manages wild horses.
The committee's action comes amidst the federal government’s summer helicopter roundup season, with the largest operation of the season still ongoing in the Antelope Complex in Nevada. To date, 21 horses and foals (baby horses) have died, most suffering broken necks and legs during the first two weeks of the roundup operation. A stallion suffered a horrific broken leg after escaping from a trap. The injury was caught on video by AWHC’s humane roundup observers and sparked national outrage.
“We applaud Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), Vice Chair Susan Collins (R-ME), Interior Subcommittee Chair Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for directing meaningful improvements to the wild horse and burro programs at the BLM, including a strong emphasis on fertility control vaccines” said Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for AWHC. “The appropriate use of fertility control vaccines will stabilize horse populations and help end the ongoing cycle of removing and confining horses in overcrowded holding facilities. Fertility control vaccines are a key component of successful, humane, and fiscally responsible wild horse population management.”
Significant measures in the bill and report language include:
Prohibition on selling horses and burros for slaughter.
Prohibition on destroying healthy and unadopted wild horses and burros.
Increasing use of fertility control and dedicating $11 million to its implementation.
Measurable objectives in reducing population growth with fertility control
Provisions to continue adoptions and other aspects of the program, while “fully implementing and enforcing” safeguards. AWHC notes that improved enforcement of safeguards would better protect wild horses and burros from roundup fatalities and abuse of the adoption incentive program, which the New York Times exposed as a pipeline to slaughter for “truckloads” of wild horses and burros after an AWHC investigation .
The bill also maintains directives from the FY23 Omnibus, which includes urging partnerships with military veterans and wild horse organizations and evaluating other on-range management options that would keep horses and burros out of BLM holding facilities.
The BLM has historically spent less than 1 percent of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget on fertility control, while over 70 percent of the budget is spent to round up, remove and maintain horses in off-range holding facilities. However, the agency has taken steps to expand field application of fertility control following last year’s appropriations language, which also called for dedicated funding for fertility control. Vaccine usage must be ramped up to provide meaningful results.
“We’re grateful to Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and 18 other Senators for championing effective, humane on-range management strategies to help keep horses and burros in the wild where they belong,” concluded Gann Bice, noting that Sen. Booker continues to spearhead efforts to secure humane reforms to better protect wild horses and requesting reform language in the bill.
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 horses 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.