Government shutdown: A short-term reprieve for wild horses, with no long-term solutions

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Photo by Norma Fries


What would a government shutdown mean for wild horses and burros?

All non-essential personnel would be furloughed and the government would stay closed until the Republican-controlled Congress could come up with a solution that funds the government on a short-term or long-term (until Sept. 30) basis. This would cause the delay or cancellation of helicopter roundups planned for the days ahead in Nevada, Utah and Oregon.

While that may be a short-lived silver lining for wild horses in the affected herd management areas, Congress’s inability to pass annual appropriations bills makes clear that process is not how lawmakers ought to be deciding with the fate of wild horses and burros – as well as domestic horses, in the case of horse slaughter.

The annual funding mess forces advocates to work to have protective language included in appropriations bills, year after year, both for wild horses and horse slaughter. That’s why legislation like the SAFE Act (HR 113 / S. 1706), which would place a permanent ban on horse slaughter is so important, and that’s why we need a viable, sustainable long-term plan that utilizes proven, humane management methods to keep America’s wild horses on the range, where they belong.

The appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2018, which should have started on October 1, 2017, is a sad example of this recurring cycle.

In July 2017, the House rejected an amendment to bar the use of federal funds to hire horse slaughter plant inspectors, opening the door for the return of such plants, and approved language removing a prohibition on the use of taxpayer money for killing healthy, unadopted wild horses and burros. While advocates were later successful in urging the Senate to insert language protecting horses from slaughter and from BLM “euthanasia” — shooting healthy horses — these threats remain.

Months later, the issues still aren’t resolved because Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on appropriations bills.

Take action:

  • Call the members of Congress listed below and urge them to:
    • support Senate Interior appropriations bill language protecting healthy wild horses and burros from being killed;
    • support Senate Agriculture appropriations bill language preventing horse slaughter.
      • House Speaker Paul Ryan: (202) 225-3031
      • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: (202) 224-2541
      • Rodney Frelinghuysen, House Appropriations Committee chairman: (202) 225-5034
      • Nita Lowey, House Appropriations Committee ranking member: (202) 225-6506
      • Thad Cochran, Senate Appropriations Committee chairman: (202) 224-5054
      • Patrick Leahy, Senate Appropriations Committee vice chairman: (202) 224-4242