Wild horse euthanasia proposal considered
RENO ” A government advisory board on Monday was to weigh the prospect of using euthanasia and unlimited sale of wild horses to control herd populations throughout the West and corral escalating costs of caring for the animals taken off the range.
But wild horse advocates decry the proposal by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as a travesty of a 37-year-old federal law that deemed the horses “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”
“Killing these majestic wild horses ” or worse ” lifting restrictions on sales and thus opening the door for slaughter buyers, would be an unacceptable breach of the public trust and a travesty heard ’round the world,” In Defense of Animals said in prepared remarks.
The BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board was to consider the proposal at a meeting Monday in Reno.
BLM officials have said no immediate decision would be made on killing or selling horses until after the board gives its input.
Wild horses and burros are protected under a 1971 law enacted by Congress. About 33,000 mustangs roam the open range in 10 Western states, half of those in Nevada.
The BLM has set a target “appropriate management level” of horses at 27,000.
Most horses gathered are placed for adoption, but those deemed too old or otherwise unadoptable are sent to long-term holding facilities to live out their days. Some can live for two decades in captivity.
BLM officials say demand for horses has declined, and the cost of caring for the equines is skyrocketing.
A report released last week by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said caring for wild horses likely will account for 74 percent of the program’s overall budget this year, or more than $27 million. That percentage will climb, it said, unless alternatives are found.
Continuing current practices would require a budget of $58 million next year, escalating to $77 million in 2012, BLM estimated.
Critics argue the BLM gives preference to livestock and other wildlife on public lands, and that about 20 million acres originally designated as horse herd areas has been withdrawn from that use over the years.
Reallocating those lands to horses would eliminate the need for long-term boarding, critics say.