Two more members of Congress question BLM wild horse sale changes

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Photo of Sulphur Springs horses Chief, right, and Ruby taken at RTF’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary by Tina Thuell.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada, and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, on Friday sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke raising concerns about whether the Bureau of Land Management’s changes to its wild horse and burro sales policy have created, in their words, “a pipeline to slaughter.”

The sale policy now allows a single buyer to purchase 24 wild horses or burros with no waiting period and no questions asked. BLM instituted the policy change in a memo to field offices of May 24, but didn’t post the Instruction Memorandum (IM) online until July.

“The [change] removes bare minimum safeguards put in place to prevent wild horses and burros from being acquired by kill-buyers, transported across our borders and sold for human consumption to foreign nations,” write Titus and Buchanan, who emphasize that Congress has repeatedly included language in appropriations bills intended to protect wild horses and burros from being sold for slaughter.

The lawmakers conclude that “changes made by the recent IM represent a relinquishment of BLM’s responsibility. The public deserves to know what is happening to these icons of our Western heritage. We urge you to uphold your obligation to ensure their humane treatment.”

Click here to read the letter on Titus’ Facebook page.

Buchanan and Titus raise a number of questions about the sales policy, including:

  • how BLM will ensure that buyers will not sell animals to slaughter;
  • who will review sales applications, what criteria will be used and whether the public will have access to those applications;
  • will BLM monitor groups or individuals repeatedly purchasing large numbers of wild horses;
  • and what consequences there are for purchasers that falsely represent themselves if it’s discovered purchased animals are received poor care or were sent to slaughter.

They also asked Zinke why the IM removes requirements that BLM officials report suspected improper placement of animals and crosschecks potential purchases with an internal database.

Under BLM’s previous policy, a single buyer could purchase no more than four wild horses or burros every six months without permission. Now, a buyer is allowed to purchase 24 without requesting special permission and the waiting period is eliminated — allowing one buyer to buy 8,760 wild horses in a calendar year.

Sale-eligible wild horses and burros are those that have been passed over for adoption three times or that are 10 years or older.

While BLM stresses that it’s against agency policy to sell to known kill buyers, asking no questions of buyers purchasing two dozen wild horses or burros at once opens wide a door to those that would truck them to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. At this point, it’s unclear how many wild horses and burros may have already allowed to go to slaughter by the very agency tasked with their protection.

This yet another stealth maneuver on the part of BLM to lift sale restrictions without oversight and make it easier for those who wish to do so to dispose of federally protected wild horses and burros. These new instructions replace a policy put into place in 2012 that allowed an individual to buy only four horses ever six months in response to hundreds of wild horses being shipped to slaughter.

Titus and Buchanan join at least one other member of Congress in calling out the change. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-N.M., House Subcommittee on Natural Resources ranking member, also penned a letter to Zinke about his concerns.

Take Action

  • Click to send a message to Congress
  • Call your members of Congress at (202) 225-3121 (to find direct numbers, go to https://www.callmycongress.com).Urge your senators to:

    * Stand strong in Conference committee on the Senate’s language protecting wild horses and burros and on defunding horse slaughter, if the senator sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee (click for a list of members: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/about/members).

    For senators *not* on the Senate Appropriations Committee: Ask them to tell members of the Conference committee that constituents do not want them to waiver either on protecting wild horses or defunding horse slaughter.

    * Oppose a new, quietly implemented BLM policy increasing the number of wild horses that can be sold to individuals and the frequency of those sales. This move will only lead to the slaughter of wild horses, something Congress has strongly rejected;

    * Support the SAFE Act (S. 1706) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter.

    Urge your congressional representative to:

    * Oppose a new, quietly implemented BLM increasing the number of wild horses that can be sold to individuals and the frequency of those sales. This move will only lead to the slaughter of wild horses, something Congress has strongly rejected;

    * Oppose the House version of the FY19 Interior Appropriations bill because it contains an amendment allowing for the mass sterilization of wild horses and burros; instead, ask your representative to support Senate language on wild horses being considered by the House and Senate Conference committee, instead;

    * Oppose the FY19 Agriculture Appropriations bill because it does not include the horse slaughter inspection defund language; instead, ask your representative to support the Senate language being considered by the House and Senate Conference committee, instead;

    * Support the SAFE Act (H.R. 113) to ban slaughter and the transportation of horses for slaughter;

    * Support the Horse Transportation Safety Act (H.R. 4040) to ban hauling horses on double-deck trailers under all circumstances.

Donate to RTF’s Wild Horse Defense Fund, which fuels our advocacy, lobbying, selective litigation and on-range monitoring of roundups

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