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Equestrians Prompt Federal Policy Changes To Protect Wild Horses

Are you a local equestrian who has rallied for better protections for America's thousands of wild horses and burros?

Wildomar, Murrieta and Temecula have their share of horse lovers and horse owners, and some may have helped spur change on a federal level for wild equines.

The Bureau of Land Management announced this month several new policies associated with its Wild Horse and Burro program. The policies, designed to increase public transparency and ensure the humane treatment of animals, are part of a Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program that the BLM has been in the process of developing for several years.

As part of the policy change, the BLM is promising more humane horse-gathering and handling techniques. There are still thousands of wild horses and burros roaming federally managed lands in the United States. Most of the animals are in the western half of the country, with many in California, including some in Riverside County. The herds, which are managed by the BLM, are  routinely culled to keep populations from growing too large.

Some horse lovers and animal welfare organizations such as the The Humane Society of the United States allege wild equines are repeatedly subjected to frenzied roundup practices that create dangerous stampedes, leaving some animals badly injured or dead. The HSUS also alleges young foals are sometimes hogtied and electric prods are routinely used on animals in holding pens. Also, the HSUS alleges wild horses are sold to slaughter, which is against the law in the United States.

Acting BLM Director Mike Pool said the new policy changes will help prevent such practices.

“These changes are part of our ongoing commitment to ensure the humane treatment of animals that are gathered from our public rangelands," he said. “In addition, increasing public transparency is a cornerstone of this Administration’s approach to our work.  These new policies represent significant and substantial improvements, and we anticipate additional steps in the future to continue to strengthen this program.”

Holly Hazard, HSUS’s senior vice president of programs and innovations, said the changes are overdue.

“These new policies are striking in that they integrate specific new minimum standards for animal welfare, with a general department policy of compassion and concern. Many of the recommendations mimic The Humane Society of the United States’ report that we issued to the BLM in July 2011, and if these policies are put into action and incorporated into the BLM’s culture, they promise to result in a sea change in the day-to-day management of our wild horse herds,” she said.

According to the HSUS, the BLM has gathered more than 15,000 horses and burros since 2011, and there have been many instances of “documented inhumane treatment both during gather operations and in government holding facilities.”

Hazard said she is disappointed that it took public pressure to effect change.

“We are gratified that the BLM is addressing the treatment of foals, handling aids, electric prods and the balance of gathering demands and horse welfare. It is ironic, however, that many of the necessary changes come as a result of media attention and public observations and that, while championing transparency, the changes do not include the right of the media and public to witness the gather from a reasonable distance within the ability of the human eye to observe,” she said.

Hazard contends the BLM isn’t properly managing wild horses.

“The cycle of waiting until horses are over appropriate management level, gathering the excess and being unable to treat those remaining with contraception, has led the agency into a management and financial morass. It can only free itself by investing in a significant reform of its polices related to removal, herd management areas and disaster management. The HSUS is hopeful the agency will devote all necessary attention to this challenge until the program is stabilized,” Hazard said. 

BLM officials admit they can do a better job.

“At the end of the day, we need to find better ways to manage for healthier animals and healthier rangelands so that we can keep these symbols of the American West on our nation’s public lands,” Pool said.

Constant Comment February 05, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Whoa Nellie! Horse meat is considered a delicacy in some countries. I tried a horsemeat burger once......and hours later went straight to the hospital in Dublin. The Doctor came out into the hallway of the hospital to talk to my poor worried wife. He told her my condition was 'stable'! I could hear her laughing 2 corridors away! }~)
The Teller of Truth February 06, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Burger King! The horror! The HORROR!
Barbara Warner February 07, 2013 at 11:05 PM
There are less than 20,000 wild horses still free in all the West now. All roundups and removals need to stop. The AML's need to be increased so that the herds will be genetically viable and sustainable . There are NO excess wild horses. There are millions of excess cattle over-grazing our public lands for $1.35 per cow and calf . The 1971 Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act is being broken and our wild horses are being "managed for extinction". The 51,000 wild horses in holding need to be returned to the 22 million acres taken from them.
Barbara Warner February 07, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Thanks
tom February 15, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Ten years ago hay $4 a bail,now$17.50 a bail most of our feed grain is being sold to China including straw.

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