The U.S. government could kill as many as 45,000 wild horses across the country.
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) voted to euthanize or sell “without limitation” wild horses and burros, a wild donkey, in government-run holding facilities, according to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
“The decision of the BLM advisory board to recommend the destruction of the 45,000 wild horses currently in holding facilities is a complete abdication of responsibility for their care,” Holly Hazard, of the Humane Society, said in a statement. “The agency would not be in this situation but for their long-term mis-management. Alternatives to this proposal have been ignored for over 20 years. The HSUS stands ready to implement these alternatives at any time.”
The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board is a third-party panel of civilian experts, and the BLM can decide to take it up on its recommendation or not. Robert Cole, an Idaho veterinarian and member of the board who supported the vote to cull the wild horses, explained to Arizona-based outlet AZCentral.com that the horses are “dying of old age in captivity” and “that’s not fair, either.”
Horse enthusiasts were appalled by the recommendation.
“Quite frankly, it’s an American icon,” Gillian Lyons, wild horse and burro program manager for the Humane Society, told the New York Daily News. “Can you imagine the reaction to 45,000 horses being euthanized by our government?”
Since 1971, the BLM has overseen the management of wild horses under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, directing the government agency to protect animals from harassment, death, branding, or capture.
There are nearly 70,000 wild horses and burros on government-owned rangelands.
“In fiscal year 2015, BLM spent $49 million maintaining these horses in off-range facilities, which constituted 46 percent of the entire budget of the agency’s wild horse and burro program. Such a large expenditure has limited the agency’s ability to properly manage wild horses on the range. The HSUS has long recommended the humane and sustainable option of implementing fertility control programs throughout the West,” the Humane Society said.