Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) commend the U.S. House Appropriations committee for advancing bipartisan language today that would require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement an immunocontraceptive fertility control program to manage wild horses and burros and evaluate other on-range management options, including relocating horses to less populated Herd Management Areas.
Championed by Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Dina Titus (D-NV), David Pocan (D-WI), and more than 40 other representatives, the appropriations bill sets aside $11 million in dedicated funding to pursue safe and reversible fertility control options.
“The language in the Fiscal Year 2022 House bill and report is the strongest we’ve seen to date in terms of protecting America’s mustangs and offering a clear path for meaningful reforms,” said Joanna Grossman, Ph.D., equine program manager and senior advisor at AWI. “Setting aside dedicated funding for implementing proven and humane fertility control is key to breaking the vicious cycle of roundups and shifting animals into costly holding facilities for the rest of their lives.”
Currently, the BLM spends less than 1% of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget on fertility control, but spends approximately $60 million in taxpayer dollars annually rounding up horses from the range and keeping them in long-term holding facilities indefinitely. This brutal roundup process often results in injury or death. As the National Academy of Sciences has noted, this cycle of mass removals is counterproductive, as it accelerates population growth rates through compensatory reproduction.
In May 2020, under the previous administration, the BLM released a management plan that called for the removal of more than 90,000 wild horses and burros from public lands over the next five years. The plan would balloon the number of horses and burros warehoused in holding pens and cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion in the first five years alone.
The committee also called for a review of the BLM’s “Adoption Incentive Program,” which pays individuals to take in untamed wild horses removed from the range ($1,000 per horse). However, a May New York Times investigation detailed how federally protected wild horses are being funneled into the slaughter pipeline after being acquired by unscrupulous adopters.
Importantly, the House Interior bill maintains longstanding, critical provisions intended to prevent wild horses and burros from being sent to slaughter. The subcommittee further called for the Interior Department to set up a task force to address wild horse and burro management. Taken together, these recommendations could result in meaningful reforms to the broken federal Wild Horse and Burro Program.
“The U.S. House Appropriations Committee has taken a historic first step toward reforming the Wild Horse and Burro Program by requiring the BLM to pursue on-range management alternatives to removing horses from public lands and stockpiling them in holding facilities at astronomical costs,” said Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for AWHC. “We’re deeply grateful to U.S. Representatives Pocan, Cohen, Titus, and others for providing necessary leadership to place the BLM on a more sustainable and fiscally responsible path for the humane management of our Western herds.”
“Nevada is home to the largest population of wild horses in the nation,” Titus said. “Taxpayer-funded roundups and removals are not only a costly and ineffectual management strategy, but they also endanger the lives of these beautiful animals. This funding promotes the humane and fiscally responsible management of America’s iconic wild horse and burros.”
“The current strategy in place to manage our population of wild horses and burros is cruel and inefficient, and places them in danger of slaughter,” Pocan said. “Implementing a reversible fertility control program is a cost-effective, humane alternative solution. I thank Interior Appropriations Chairwoman Pingree for her support on this important issue.”
“America’s wild horses and burros are cherished by the public and deserve our protection,” said Cohen, a longtime member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. “It’s due time for the Bureau of Land Management to pursue a more humane, sustainable track by implementing on-range management methods, like fertility control vaccines, that keep these animals in the wild where they belong. I’m glad the committee has directed $11 million for reversible fertility control. It’s been a long time coming, but I am pleased the Appropriations Committee has included this funding in its bill, which is an important step toward better management of America’s iconic animals.”