A plan to send American burros captured from the western rangelands to Guatemala is a poor decision, the head of the Humane Society of the United States believes.
President and chief executive Wayne Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, criticized the pilot program.
Pacelle said the society had for years been pressing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which runs the wild horse and burro management program, to focus on fertility programs to manage populations rather than capturing and stockpiling animals in long-term holding facilities.
He noted with dismay that the BLM had announced plans to round up nearly 2400 more wild horses and burros this year.
“The cost of the roundups and housing and feeding the animals is now cannibalizing about two-thirds of the budget for the program, which has been widely regarded through the years as a case study of mismanagement.
“Now, in what can only be described as a case example of poor decision-making, BLM is undertaking a pilot program with the Department of Defense and Heifer International and intends to allow the transport of 100 burros to residents in Guatemala, for use as working animals.
“While burros have been traditionally used for this purpose, this use is at odds with the provisions of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, which requires that the BLM’s first priority has to be the humane treatment of wild burros in their care.
“We are not insensitive to the difficult and challenging lives of people and animals in Guatemala and other developing countries, and we acknowledge the value and importance of working animals worldwide.
“Through Humane Society International and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Program affiliates, we have a robust and proactive assistance program that helps provide veterinary care and other resources in these countries.
“But Guatemala has burros of its own, and does not need shipments of burros compliments of the BLM – a practice that simply relieves pressure on BLM to revamp its program and protect our nation’s heritage of responsibly managing wild horses and burros.”
Pacelle said the society worked with the BLM, through its Platero Project, to adopt burros to suitable owners. So far this year it has placed 190 animals.
“We remain committed to getting more burros placed in good, local homes. Ultimately though, the solution must be on-the-ground management through fertility control, to obviate the costly and dangerous round-ups and removals and to prevent the population boom of horses and burros in captive holding facilities.”