Historic deal over management of free-roaming horses on Navajo land

Bill Richardson. Photo: Kathy Milani/HSUS
Bill Richardson. Photo: Kathy Milani/HSUS

An agreement to humanely manage the thousands of free-roaming horses on Navajo Nation land in the United States has been described as historic.

The Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife said on Thursday it had formalized an agreement with the Navajo Nation to develop a comprehensive and humane program to manage free-roaming horses on the reservation.

The ultimate goal is to develop alternatives to transporting the horses to slaughter facilities.

Former New Mexico governor and foundation co-founder Bill Richardson negotiated the deal with Navajo president Ben Shelly.

“This historic agreement is a great first step in our efforts to not only protect these horses, but to find humane and long-term solutions that are in the best interests of the Navajo people and their land,” Richardson said.

“I commend President Shelly for his commitment to this issue, and we look forward to getting right to work.”

Shelly said the agreement was born from a desire to work together to resolve the challenges.

The foundation, he said, would provide funding and find resources to reverse the population of feral horses.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly

“We will continue to treat these animals humanely and implement the best solutions to our rangeland issues. We thank Governor Richardson and the foundation for working with the Navajo Nation in this most important effort.”

The two men have initialed the agreement, allowing work to begin, and hope to hold a formal signing ceremony with all involved parties in the near future.

“I also want to thank the country’s top animal protection groups that have agreed to partner with us on this important project,” Richardson said. “Their dedication and expertise will be critical to the success of our efforts.”

Those partners include Return to Freedom Wild Horse Preservation, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of United States, the Animal Welfare Institute, and Animal Protection of New Mexico.

The foundation and its partners are now working with representatives of the Navajo Nation on developing the first phase of the equine management program, which may eventually include adoptions, triages, veterinarian services and sanctuaries.

They are also working to identify possible funding sources for these activities.

Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation has agreed to immediately make every effort to deal only with horse buyers who offer humane alternatives to the transportation of horses to slaughter facilities.

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