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Bureau overstepping authority - wild horse advocates

December 9, 2010

Wild horse advocates have accused the federal agency charged with looking after the animals in the US of overstepping the laws put in place to protect them.

Wild horses being gathered in Utah's Cedar Mountains. © BLM
The Equine Welfare Alliance and Animal Law Coalition say the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is authorised only to round up "excess" horses.

The organisations say they have evidence showing the bureau is instead rounding up, sterilising and warehousing wild "non-excess" horses and plans to reduce the population on the range to a level "far below a justifiable number".

The proof, they say, is in bureau's own numbers.

The bureau says in its 2011 Budget Justification that horses are in ecological balance with their occupied habitat at a population of 26,600.

"If the BLM obtains funding for the planned removals for 2011-2012, the remaining population will be less than 5700 horses," group representatives John Holland and Laura Allen said.

Their organisations called on Congress to refuse any further funding for roundups of wild horses and burros from federally protected herd areas pending the completion of a study of the wild horses and burros programme by the National Academy of Sciences.

They also want Congress to allow an agency other than the bureau or, preferably, an independent commission to manage the wild horse and burro program.

The report, compiled by wild horse researchers and sponsored by horse advocacy groups, alleges the long-term survival of America's wild horses and burros is in jeopardy.

The group point out that the bureau will end up with nearly 46,000 equines in holding pens, "creating yet another financial crisis".

In fiscal year 2011, roundup, removal and holding costs for the projected 10,746 horses to be removed from the range will be about $US31 million.

"The cost of holding and maintaining just the horses rounded-up in 2011-2012 will be $US223 million over their lives."

The report argues that the bureau's population estimates are inconsistent and lack oversight, nor based on the best scientific, peer-reviewed data or obtained using state-of-the-art technology.

It challenged the agency's annual estimated reproductive rate of 20 per cent across the board, saying it failed to take into account the effect of fertility control, destruction of herd dynamics, viability of remaining herds and studies they said reflecting actual reproduction rates of less than 4 per cent.

The Equine Welfare Alliance is an umbrella group with more than 125 member organisations that focuses on the welfare of all equines and the preservation of wild equids.

The Animal Law Coalition is a coalition of pet owners and rescuers, advocates, attorneys, law students, veterinarians, shelter workers, decision-makers, and other citizens. It advocates for the rights of animals to live free of cruelty and neglect.



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