In a victory last year for Return to Freedom and animal-welfare advocates, Congress included in its Fiscal Year 2020 Interior Appropriations bill a first-ever requirement that Bureau of Land Management roundups must be conducted in strict compliance with BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) — a set of humane handling standards for wild horses and burros.
As wild horse roundups drag on, there are no assurances that Congress or the public will learn whether BLM is complying with its own humane handling standards – as it conducts helicopter drive trapping of wild horses in the freezing cold of Wyoming, for example — or that any steps are being taken to learn from sometimes deadly incidents.
RTF believes that the CAWP should be a living document, one routinely improved in response to what takes place on the range during roundups and in holding.
The honing of these rules of the road – and the life and death consequences for wild horses and burros – should be made more transparent, enabling both improved congressional oversight and clarity for the public, which has a vested interest in the program because of the tax dollars it provides and its interest in the well-being of wild horses and burros.
BLM has promised to implement an internal system to audit roundups and to fill a position meant to oversee CAWP. So far, the agency has done neither.
RTF’s goal is to replace BLM’s decades-old practice of capture, removal, and warehousing of wild horses. with humane, on-range management. But even applying safe, proven, and humane fertility control as a way to phase out roundups as BLM’s primary management tool will not be attainable without handling wild horses and burros.
Transparency and accountability are essential, and the CAWP standards must be applied, functioning, and ever-evolving.