The bill was first considered in the last session, with the aim of restoring the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act to its original language.
"The horse is an integral part of the tapestry of this country - a symbol, a promise of possibility, a companion, and a treasured childhood memory," Chairman Rahall has said in regards to the impetus for this bill.
"Americans have always championed their survival, and they expect that these creatures will be protected. To allow them to be sacrificed and slaughtered represents great disrespect to the will of the American people and is an affront to our nation's history."
The original 1971 bill deemed the wild horse a "living symbol of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West," entitled to "protection from capture, branding, harassment or death." This designation was taken away in late 2004, when former Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) snuck a rider onto an omnibus spending bill, eliminating the prohibition on killing wild horses and undermining more than 30 years of horse protection.
In the past two years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has rounded up countless wild horses for auction. Because of the Burns rider, wild horses 10 years and older or not been adopted after three attempts are eligible for slaughter. Those sold for slaughter have been hauled across the country under archaic conditions, and many are handled brutally before being killed inhumanely. Others languish in captivity.
"For the first time in our history, there are more wild horses in BLM holding facilities than roaming free on our public lands," said Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL) Deputy Legislative Director Chris Heyde. "This is a national tragedy being perpetrated by an agency more concerned with catering to special interests than upholding its legal responsibility to protect wild horses."
SAPL is now working with Chairman Rahall to push for H.R. 249 to be enacted swiftly by the House of Representatives, ensuring an end to the commercial exploitation and slaughter of wild horses.