The US government has approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill that will allow the government operational funds through September. The budget was approved sans a particular proposal that had America’s horse lovers up in arms. The proposed bill would have allowed the culling the tens of thousands of mustangs and burros held in government funded corrals and ranches in an effort to reduce the cost of housing and caring for animals managed by the BLM.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) described the culling as “humane euthanization” in an effort to mitigate the cost for sustaining animals. The senator suggested that funds to manage collected horses would total over $1 billion over the animal’s lifetime.
“That’s $1 billion we could otherwise spend on defense, education, job training or any other worthy cause,” Stewart said. “But the alternative for these horses is starving in the wild.”
The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act gave the animals federal protections and it also permitted the interior secretary to sell or euthanize older and unadoptable animals. For the last 30 years, Congress has utilized appropriations bill riders to prohibit the killing of healthy animals and any ‘sale that results in their destruction’.
For months wild horse advocacy groups and the horse loving public have voiced opposition through petitions, phone calls and emails to congressional members. In July, the House Appropriations Committee voted to remove language that banned culling but would not permit horses to be sold for commercial processing. A senate proposal retained the protections.
The approved budget saves horses from being slaughtered – for now.
46,000 wild horses and burros are currently held in corrals and leased ranches by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The annual cost to manage these horses is nearly $50 million. 73,000 wild horses run free, a number that exceeds the 27,000 the bureau says the land can sustain.
The BLM’s wild horse and burro adoption program has been the primary effort to move horses into private hands. Since 1971 the BLM has adopted out more than 235,000 horses and burros. In the last six years adoptions numbers have dropped significantly averaging about 2000 annually. In 2017, only 2905 horses and 612 burros were rehomed.
America’s wild horses have a reprieve and it is a short one, less than 1 year. The Trump administrations fiscal 2019 budget calls for doing away with the rider that prevents their sale or killing and will allow the BLM to use a “full suite of tools” to manage the herds.
What Can You Do to Help a Wild Mustang or Burro?
This is not a new conversation, there is a lot of information online available (google). Digest statistical data, read opinion pieces and when you have a well-rounded perspective – form your own opinion.
Find out how your current congressmen or candidate for the upcoming midterm elections stands on this issue and vote accordingly. Your vote DOES make a difference.
“The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In the spirit of activism, WARHorses offers a few suggestions.
ADOPT a wild horse or burro from the BLM. The website is a wealth of information with easy to follow instructions and photos of available animals at the holding facilities. The BLM also does regional adoptions, check the calendar for a location near you.
ADOPT a gentled animal from the BLM. The BLM works with several correctional centers where inmates learn life skills such as patience, responsibility, humility and pride in their work and the horses receive valuable training making them more adoptable. There are regularly scheduled adoption events where the horses are available at competitive bids. The BLM site includes a complete list of correctional center locations and scheduled adoption events. The event (sale) catalogs are very helpful including photos of the horses and their trainer with detailed descriptions of the horses’ talents and character.
ADOPT a gentled or trained animal through the Mustang Heritage Foundation. This organization works as a conduit between the BLM and potential new owners providing training programs and competitions that highlight the capabilities of America’s Mustangs. Since its inception in 2007 more than 9,500 horses have been adopted through this organization.
Trainer Incentive Program (TIP)
You may apply to become a TIP Trainer where you are tasked with gentling a wild horse within a set period of time. The horse must pick up all four feet, load and unload from a trailer and be halter broke. Once that is achieve, they are available for rehoming via the TIP Facebook Page or directly through a TIP trainer. Trainers will post photos, videos and tell you all about their horse. Using the FB platform allows interested parties to ask questions directly and to get first hand input on the horse’s character and abilities. Once the horse is sold TIP trainers are paid a modest fee for their efforts. Win. Win. Win.
Extreme Mustang Makeover
This program offers several annual competitions for adult and youth trainers. Trainers are given 100 days to prepare a horse for a series of classes designed to showcase their new skills. Trainers compete for prizes and at the conclusion of each event the horses are available by competitive bid. With a reduced budget there are only two events scheduled for 2018 in Lexington, KY June 21-23 and Ft. Worth, TX September 6-8.
PROVIDE OFF RANGE PASTURE. The BLM leases pastures to serve as storage for horses beyond the holding facilities. It is less expensive for the BLM to house horses off sight. If you have an expanse of land that qualifies, you can submit a proposal to the BLM to house wild horses on your property and retain a fee for their retention.
VOLUNTEER at a BLM holding facility or event. Volunteers host tours at the holding facilities, showcase animals at adoption events and conduct compliance checks with adopters, inspecting facilities and helping to correct any issues.
VOLUNTEER to transport a horse or burro to a new home. For those east of the Mississippi logistics is often the reason for not adopting. Most of the holding facilities are out west. If you are headed east with room in a trailer contact the BLM or TIP Program.
DONATE to the BLM. There are many groups that raise funds including the BLM itself. You can donate to The Save the Mustangs Fund established in 2005 by the Ford Motor Company and Take Pride in America. Send your tax-deductible contribution to: BLM, Save the Mustangs Fund. 1849 C Street, NW, Room 5273, Washington, DC 20240. Make your check payable to: Save the Mustangs Fund.
SUPPORT a group that helps the wild horses and burros. There are many, many groups that work to help these animals. There are groups that monitor the wild horses on the range, posting photos and videos. They know every horse by name and their lineage in detail. There are groups dedicated to saving horses from a particular area. There are groups who adopt entire herds so family groups can stay together. And there are groups who work to save for instance the Curly Mustangs. We encourage you to google and find one that suits your interests then support their deeds with a donation or get personally involved or both! We invite you to comment below and provide a link to your favorite group.
The wild horses and burros are safe from culling for a few months. Their future beyond this year is uncertain. WARHorses encourages you to do something now. We invite everyone to write and tell us about your journey with the hope that we may share your activism in a future WARHorses’ post.
Photo Credit: All photos provided by Animals’ Angels, Inc. Photos subject to copyright, used with permission. Animals’ Angels, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with full-time investigators working throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. Our focus is on improving conditions for farm animals, including slaughter-bound horses. For years Animals’ Angels has been at the forefront of efforts to stop the horse slaughter industry from every angle possible.