Dramatic Rescue for Wild Horses
The unwanted horses seemed destined for death. The wheels had been set in motion to put down about 2,000 healthy mustangs, those in a federally maintained herd of wild horses and burros that no one wanted to adopt.
The Bureau of Land Management knew that euthanasia was a legal alternative, but officials were proceeding slowly, afraid of an intense public outcry. The wild horses had become too expensive to maintain, and cattlemen argued that turning them loose would be a drain on the already scarce grazing lands of the West.
Then yesterday, at a public hearing in Reno, Nev., to discuss the issue, a solution arrived on a white horse, so to speak.
Madeleine Pickens, wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, made known her intentions to adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. Lifelong animal lovers, the Pickenses just a few years ago led the fight to close the last horse slaughterhouse in the United States.
Madeleine Pickens is looking for land in the West that would be an appropriate home for the horses.
She is working with the BLM staff to adopt the horses, said Henri Bisson, the bureau's deputy director, while the agency persuades Congress to shift $20 million in funding to feed and protect the horses now in captivity for another year. As backup to Pickens's offer, he said, two other groups, both animal rescue organizations, have expressed similar interest in adoption. "We are very hopeful that euthanasia won't be necessary this year," he said.
The news that Pickens and others intend to adopt the wild horses and burros was celebrated by animal rights groups, several of which were preparing legal challenges to prevent the government from putting the horses to death.
"Of course, I'm thrilled, obviously, that these horses are getting a reprieve," said Shelley Sawhook, president of the American Horse Defense Fund. "At the same time, we need to address the basic issue of how these animals got in this position in the first place."
Bisson said policymakers have to resolve the conflict between a law that permits euthanasia and a nation that is opposed to it. "This is a situation where we have to have a conversation about what the law requires," he said. "We're hearing from members of Congress they don't think euthanasia is an appropriate solution, but the law says, 'You shall.' " If people don't like what the law says, they need to address it. We hope we will find homes for all of these animals before the year is out and Congress will decide what it wants to do about the law."
Long an American icon and inspiration for song and story, the wild horse has special protection under a 1971 law. The federal statute calls wild horses "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West" that should be "protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death." But the same law also requires the government to achieve "appropriate management levels" of roaming horses so they don't overwhelm federal lands -- and that's the part that has been vexing for bureau officials.
About 33,000 horses still roam wild on federal lands in 10 Western states. About half of those are in Nevada. The federal agency believes the range can accommodate only about 27,000 horses, and each year government-hired cowboys round up 7,000 to 13,000 horses and take them to holding pens in several states.
Right now, there are just over 30,000 horses in holding facilities awaiting adoption. Those 10 or older or those who have not been adopted after three tries can be sold without restriction under 2004 legislation.
Wild horses compete with cattle and wildlife for food and water. Horse advocates say federal officials have made faulty assumptions about the number of horses that can be accommodated on federal land, tilting those findings in favor of cattle interests.
"We're livestock people. We know animals live and die. And we take that as a very normal part of life. We fully realize animal rights people hate that aspect of the livestock industry. We don't particularly seek the euthanization. What we seek is the management of the population," said Jeff Eisenberg, director of federal lands for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, an industry lobbying group.
The federal government has been rounding up wild horses since the 1980s, putting them in holding facilities and offering them for adoption to horse lovers, who promise not to sell them for slaughter. But the roundups became aggressive under the Bush administration. As of June, BLM was holding 30,088 animals, more than triple the 9,807 held in 2001.
Bisson said yesterday that the BLM would limit the roundups next year to about 5,000 horses.
Meanwhile, the pace of adoptions has been falling as the cost of feeding and caring for the wild horses has skyrocketed. The price tag to federal taxpayers for maintaining the horses tripled from $7 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007. Hay prices for one short-term holding facility in Nevada rose from about $160 per ton in 2007 to almost $300 per ton in 2008, for example.
In a report released last week, the Government Accountability Office called the situation a "crisis" and said the bureau needed to exercise its options, including euthanasia and the practice of selling the wild horses "without restriction," meaning they could be sold for slaughter.
In the first analysis of BLM's wild horse program in 18 years, the GAO found that the agency lacked a coherent nationwide management policy. The GAO recommended that the bureau investigate alternatives to euthanasia and adoption.
Animal rights groups say the government ought to sterilize horses and return them to the wild to live out their lives. In addition, they say, it should offer tax incentives to landowners who allow wild horses to live on private land.
Virginie L. Parant of the American Wild Horses Preservation Campaign, a coalition of about 45 groups, said the BLM does not use a scientifically sound method to estimate the size of horse herds or the number of horses that can be sustained on the range. That makes the roundups arbitrary, she said.
What's more, about 19 million acres of land where wild horses once roamed have been removed from the program, reducing the amount of land available to the horses and increasing their concentration elsewhere.
People on all sides of the issue recognize some fundamental changes are needed.
"It's intractable," Eisenberg said. "The animal rights people put the BLM in a box. We are seeking a balance in the land. Congress doesn't want to put more funding into these holding facilities, especially when times are tight. It's a problem nobody likes."
Im glad to see that someone who has money actually cares.
While I do think it's good to see that someone has the compassion to take all these horses in... Are they willing to keep them for the term of their lives? No way are 30,000 wild horses going to get adopted out...
I just think it's sad when animal rights advocates condemn euthanasia, when foregoing it will often mean the animal dies of disease/starvation on inadequate lands, or being sold "without restriction" as it says above, which of course means to slaughter. Surely euthanasia IS the more humane option in these situations? A similar thing happens in Asutralia with kangaroos... The government authorized a mass cull, because the huge population of Kangaroos were starving due to the sheeer numbers, and the animal rights people wanted to stop it.
Hmmm. But glad they are safe for now :]
I am glad to see that they are going to help the horses. If they cannot buy enough suitable land right away they can rent public land for the horses. Land can be rented for cattle or horses. The wild horses could once again be grazing land that they used to call home if Mr. & Mrs. Pickens get to rent it instead of the cattleman. Bush owns a cattle ranch and it seems he favored the cattleman over the public and the wild animals and horses.
maybe they should start the "Illinois Canadian Goose alternative" rather than poison 100,00 geese in Chicago land, grab a bunch and sterilize them-they tried it i belive with a feed program hmmmmmm BLM aministration is not/are not the smartest tools in the shed having worked for them 20 years ago in reforestation.
There has just got to be a better saner answer to this problem
This is what Fuglyhorseoftheday said about it. I am definately not always in agreemement with her, but this time, I have to say I am.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Money doesn't fix everything!
Someone just sent me this article and I am sitting here rolling my eyes.
A Dramatic Rescue For Doomed Wild Horses of the West
*sigh* OK, so you buy 30,000 mustangs. Who is going to administer their care? Where are you going to even put them? How fast are you going to get a bunch of unhandled stallions gelded - or are you, oops, going to have 40,000 mustangs next year? And ultimately, I hope you plan to support them for life and that your fortunes don't change, because if there were homes for 30,000 mustangs, they would already be in them.
Do you ever read Craigslist? There aren't enough homes for broke, sensible registered horses right now, much less something that will jump out the open part at the top of the stock trailer door to get away from a human being.
Don't get me wrong. I'm very grateful for what these people did for animals during Katrina. I'm thrilled if someone this wealthy wants to help horses. I just have to question, what IS the plan? Right now it sounds a lot like the ebay auction was ending in 10 seconds and she couldn't help but click.
I personally think euthanasia was a good plan (far preferable to handing them out willy-nilly to people who wind up posting stuff on Horsetopia like "we got this BLM mare and now we can't catch her, what do we do?") and my only question is, when is the government going to extend that kindness to all of the tame horses that wind up on double-deckers bound for Canada and Mexico? Hey, if the mustang proponents don't want all of those government-funded euth services, give them to the rescues already!
Really, all this is about is more inability to deal with death. If 30,000 mustangs starve to death on the range in the winter, hey, that's ok because that's nature. Putting them to sleep which takes seconds and doesn't involve suffering, oooooooh nooooooooo, that's eeeeevil. I just wish I could put something in the water that promotes logical thinking...
Posted by fuglyhorseoftheday
thank you for asking that question, what is step two. That shows someone who has been around livestock, and not just pets, and has common sense or horse sense.
From what I read the horses in question are already being held in captivity by the BLM and since they are already confined and used to being around humans I do not think there would be a huge problem gelding them. The BLM may have already gelded some and maybe all of them will be gelded before they take possession. The plan according to what I read was to buy about 1 million acres adjacent to BLM land. I saw BLM horses for adoption years ago and most of them seemed to be pretty tame already. I raised cattle for quite a few years and have raised other animals also I do not see any reason to condemn their plans. I am sure they do not believe it is OK for any animal to starve to death. Wild animals have been shot with tranquilizer darts and wild horses still on ranges could be also. Some herd stallions could be vasectomized and still breed mares but there would of course be no foals. The same could be done with other wildlife so that the population would be in balance with the food supply. Since public land is owned by all the people of the usa I do not think it is right for the public and the wildlife to be displaced by privately owned cattle. The cattle should be the ones removed.
When I was a vet tech, you could spay a dog with a series of three shots. I am to understand that just such a thing is being developed for horses to help control the populations.
This isn't done by the BLM, of course, this is done by private researchers.
THe wild horses COULD be left int he wild if the cattle ranchers weren't so worried about competeing with them for grazin on federal lands (which in my opinion, it is fed lands and the wild horses, not privately owned cows, should have precidence.) Cattle outnumber horses 200 to 1 on public lands, still they think the wild horses are the problem.....:roll:Again, the whole problem exists cuz of human greed and mismanagement is why the problem exists in the first place, but the horses will be the ones to pay the price...
THIS is the 'control methods' of the BLM, particularly since the protection on the wild horses and burros was 'changed' in the early years of the Bush Administation....:-x
WARNING! Link is to graphic material, unfortunately true.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign: Sheldon Pictorial
I think you better check your facts on the number of acres that were designated for mustangs that you claim cattle are on its a very small amount. Fact is the BLM is the largest so called " backyard breeder " in the world. They have bred and raised 10's of 1000's of unhandled horses and now can't figure out what to do with them. I'm very much in favor of have wild mustangs run free but not many times over the number we've ever had in history.
Ms Pickens has stepped to rescue them I say more power to her as long as its her money not the taxpayers. Thats where it gets a bit shaky with her requests.
Here is the site I got my stats.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
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