Wild Horse Week on Capitol Hill

November 6, 2019

Wild Horse Week on Capitol Hill

Last week, AWHC joined with Animal Welfare Action (AWA) and The Cloud Foundation (TCF) for an action packed week on Capitol, lobbying key offices and holding a highly successful briefing sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee chair Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and held in the ENR Committee hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Our goal was to point out the way in which Congress has been misled into thinking that the so-called “Path Forward” for wild horses is a broad stakeholder compromise that is good for wild horses, when, in reality,  the plan will put America’s wild herd on the path to destruction. We are seeking to ensure that any additional funds appropriated for the wild horse program are earmarked for PZP fertility control and that the expenditure of funds on the surgical sterilization of wild mares via removal of their ovaries is prohibited.

Approximately 35 staff members, representing bipartisan members of the House and Senate, attended the briefing. AWHC Executive Director Suzanne Roy, joined TCF Executive Director Ginger Kathrens and AWA Executive Director Marty Irby in presenting the facts about the plan, its cost to taxpayers, its devastating impacts to wild horse and burro herds, and alternatives to the mass roundup and warehousing plan. Staffers were particularly interested in why a few groups (HSUS, ASPCA and Return to Freedom) that say they are in favor of wild horse protection would endorse a livestock industry plan to roundup 130,000 horses over the next ten years. (That’s every horse and burro living free today and 45,000 more yet to be born!)

We announced the results of our new poll showing that three in four Americans oppose the roundup plan as do more than 60 humane, horse welfare and wild horse protection organizations.

Overall, we are encouraged by the results of our stepped up efforts to educate members of Congress and correct the misinformation they have received about the plan. The fact that so many staff members attended our briefing is testimony to the persistence of our supporters, who continue to be the voice for wild horses and burros and stand, as always, as the last line of defense between these national icons and doom. Special thanks to all of you who have called, emailed, tweeted at and facebook messaged your elected representatives in support of truly humane management and protection of our wid herds. And extra special gratitude to our coalition partners AWA and TCF, and Rep. Grijlava for giving us this incredible opportunity to be heard.

The Current Political Landscape

Late last week, the Senate took up several FY 2020 spending bills, which fund federal operations, including programs like the Wild Horse and Burro Program for the fiscal year that began on September 1, 2019. The Senate did it's best to return to "regular order," debating then passing spending legislation for various agencies with which they could negotiate with the House on compromise legislation. However, the bill, HR 3055, just passed by the Senate is not being negotiated with the House at this time and no one has a clear idea when they might begin and, when a spending bill finally passes, it will likely have little resemblance to this one. One thing is clear however, Congress will have to pass another continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government by November 21, or it will shut down.

The Senate-passed bill has a rocky road ahead and that is a very good thing for horses. HR 3055 funds the Interior Department and BLM, and includes an extra $35 million earmarked for the Wild Horse and Burro Program to increase roundups. Worse, the bill does nothing to ensure BLM uses PZP, but it will lead to an unhealthy and genetically unviable skewing of sex ratios and more deadly helicopter round-ups. Additionally, the bill did not include two amendments offered by Senator Feinstein, one to ensure the USFS doesn't sell horses rounded-up on its land for slaughter and another intended to push BLM to use more humane methods of fertility control like PZP. Both provisions were left out of the "manager's package" of amendments and never even received a roll call vote.

Our icons of the American west deserve better and we still have a chance to deliver it to them. In the coming weeks, you are going to hear about CRs, budget deals, and stop-gap appropriations deals about the upcoming attempts to fund the federal government until September 30, 2020. Each time Congress tries to agree to a deal is another opportunity to include protections for America's wild horses and burros with a robust program of PZP inoculations, and to reduce cruel helicopter round-ups, prohibit surgical sterilization and provide less funding on failed and inhumane management strategies. In a little over two weeks, Congress will again have to pass a CR, likely until late December. We will need all of your support this year to demand that Congress act to protect our cultural and natural heritage, and save the wild horses and burros on public land.