Press release: For first time, Congress unveils wild horse strategy built around safe, humane fertility control

/ In The News, News, Press Releases

Photo taken at RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary by Norma Fries.


Return to Freedom Wild Horse Conservation today expressed gratitude to Congress for unveiling a Fiscal Year 2020 funding package that includes a $21 million investment for a wild horse management strategy built upon the use of proven, safe and humane fertility control.

This is a first step toward ending the inhumane, costly and unsustainable practice of capturing and warehousing these American icons.

“Congress has sent a clear message to the agency by funding such a program for the very first time,” said Neda DeMayo, president of national nonprofit wild horse advocacy organization Return to Freedom. “This is a significant sum. We’re thankful that appropriators from both parties saw that such an investment could be a first step toward ending mass roundups and warehousing wild horses while protecting healthy animals from euthanasia or slaughter.

“It was critically important to secure this funding. Further delays in implementing fertility control will only perpetuate large scale roundups, place wild horses at greater risk, and cost taxpayers more over the long run.”

Both the Senate and House embraced a non-lethal proposal supported by Return to Freedom and a diverse coalition of stakeholders that can halt the march toward the needless killing or unrestricted sale (to slaughter) of tens of thousands of wild horses, steps proposed by the administration and members of Congress in recent years.

To read more about the proposal, click here.

It will also begin to shift BLM’s management approach away from almost 50 years of divisive and often deadly roundups and towards the humane, minimally intrusive management of wild horses and burros on our public lands.

For the first time, congressional funding has been allocated specifically for the use of long-proven fertility control vaccines such as PZP — the only tools currently meeting the “proven, safe and humane” standard set forth by the Congress — to slow down wild horse and burro population growth so that wild horse roundups can soon be the exception, not the rule, as the agency’s main management tool.

“We’re pleased that lawmakers looked at the science,” DeMayo said. “They also took note of the way that a diverse group of stakeholders came together for the very first time to hammer out a non-lethal strategy.”

Importantly, Congress limited the use of these valuable additional resources by specifically calling for the funding to support “safe, proven and humane” methods of slowing population growth. Currently, this includes only fertility control vaccines like PZP.

While Congress has made its intent clear as to the use of the allocation of this additional funding, unfortunately, BLM is still able to conduct research that could include surgical sterilization, which Return to Freedom strongly opposes.

“Return to Freedom will continue to oppose any effort to conduct research into or to use inhumane, unproven management tools like surgical sterilization of wild mares,” DeMayo said. “The safe, proven and humane tools needed to avert disaster are readily available to BLM. It must implement them without delay.”

The bill continues a prohibition against BLM euthanizing healthy wild horses or selling them without restriction (to slaughter) for the first time, includes that prohibition against the U.S. Forest Service doing either.

The language also mandates that:

–removals must be conducted in strict compliance with BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program, a set of humane handling standards,

–horses are relocated from high-cost corrals to lower-cost off-range pastures,

–and that BLM work with stakeholders to increase adoptions.

BLM’s long-term wild horse management plan is now months overdue. Return to Freedom calls on the agency to move swiftly to implement the strategy agreed upon by Congress on a bipartisan basis and by stakeholders on many sides of the issue.

“Change is long overdue,” DeMayo said. “It’s vital to the success of this new strategy that Congress holds BLM accountable for finally implementing a humane plan with fertility control at its center, on a Herd Management Area by Herd Management Area basis.

“At the same time, stakeholders must continue having often difficult conversations. This is the only way conservation issues succeed. If we fail to do so, America’s wild horses and the rangelands upon which they rely will continue suffering needlessly.”

Now that Congress has made it clear that it does not support the status quo, it’s time for a new chapter for advocates, DeMayo said:

“We need to come together and support what we all agree on: barring the use of any unsafe, unproven, inhumane sterilization tools, increasing use of proven safe and humane fertility control, relocating corralled horses to large range-like pastures, protecting horses from slaughter and unrestricted sale to slaughter and phasing out almost 50 years of helicopter captures as the main management tool. By coming together, we can continue to hold BLM accountable for using the additional funding as Congress intended.”