EXCESS WILD HORSES
Janice M. Ladendorf
In 2016, BLM announced the number of unadoptable equids in their holding facilities had reached
a crisis level. They were full and supporting these forty-five thousand equids would consume sixty-seven percent of their available funds and leave them with no funds for further removals. In response, the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended these
be sold or humanely euthanatized. Public outcry quickly forced BLM to cancel this recommendation. If it had been implemented, most of these horses would probably have been sold directly or indirectly to kill buyers. If BLM and the ranch community wanted to
kill all of the wild horses, a similar outcry would probably stop them.
Thousands of mustangs have already been taken off the range and ended in slaughterhouses. Horses sent there have never died a humane death. Since 2006, there have been no slaughterhouses
in the United States and the ones outside of our borders are well known for their exceptionally cruel methods. Whenever inhumane slaughter is proposed, wild horse advocates will fight it first with publicity and then take legal action to try to stop it.
What is needed to deal with this crisis is accurate information and it does not appear to exist. Some facts drawn from BLM official reports are given below.
a) BLM issues a detailed report every year on Public Land Statistics. In the
one for 2015, there is summary information on the removal and adoption of wild equids from 1971 to 2015. In this time period, 250,521 wild horses and burros have been removed from public lands and 239,374 have been adopted, giving a surplus of 11,147 equids.
What BLM claims they have in holding facilities is 45,661 equids. These reported facts require investigation and explanation.
b) BLM has two types of off range holding facilities - short term corrals and long term leased pastures. According
to the financial information given to the Advisory Board, the average annual cost of keeping a horse in short term holding is $1,788 per year. For long term holding, it is $593. If a mustang's average life expectancy is thirty years, then BLM estimates they
would have to keep an unadopted horse for 27.4 years at a cost of $50,000. Based on the 2016 data, the actual cost would $18,927. What goes into their high estimated cost does need to be investigated, as well as the death rate in captivity.
c) BLM currently holds twelve thousand four hundred thirty horses and one thousand eighty-one burros in off range corrals. Their total capacity is twenty-four thousand six hundred fifty equids and is about half exhausted. Although there
is less demand for older horses; BLM choose not include the ages of the horses in their holding reports after 2012. In 2012, only four hundred sixty-nine of the equids in this corral were over ten years old. What needs to be investigated is why have the rest
of these horses have been defined as unadoptable.
d) BLM currently holds thirty-one five hundred eighty-eight horses in leased pastures. Each one contains either mares or geldings. Their total capacity is thirty-three two hundred sixty-nine
horses. These facilities are almost full. In 2012, only fifty-four percent of the horses were more than ten years old. What needs to be investigated is the current age groups in these pastures and why the younger horses have been classified as unadoptable.
e) Since the short term holding facilities are not at capacity and the long term ones are close to it, the excess horse crisis probably affects only the 31,588 horses in pastures. The BLM reported statistics may or may not be accurate. Since
wild horses have no records, their ages must be estimated by examining their teeth. Once their adult teeth have replaced their baby teeth, any determination of age is an estimate. Some concern have been expressed as to whether or not BLM can legally euthanatize
crippled or aging horses. This question needs to be legally resolved, but they have been euthanatizing injured horses for years at their roundups (see attachment).
f) Currently the public is not allowed into all of the short term facilities
and none of the long term facilities. There are numerous photographs of the horses in the off range corrals, but almost none of them in the off range pastures. This policy has negatively affected BLM credibility in the eyes of both mustang advocates and the
g) For each one of these holding pens or pastures, a local committee could be formed to verify the number and condition of the horses in each one. These committees should include mustang advocates, appropriate officials,
veterinarians, professional trainers, and any other interested people.
With the help of veterinarians, they should determine if there are any horses living in this pen or pasture who could be humanely euthanatized. This classification could include
crippled horses or those in poor condition because of age or various medical conditions. To avoid shipping costs, if the committee's recommendation is approved by BLM, the horses could be euthanatized by local vets and the disposal of the bodies handled by
the normal local procedures.
With the help of professional trainers, they should determine if there are any adoptable horses living in this pen or pasture. If there are, what would it take to make them more attractive to adopters and would there be
any local resources available to help in this process?
Excerpt from "Mustang Management", published online, Valley Equestrian News, Oct. 6, 2016. Revised 2-21-17.
EXCESS WILD HORSES
EUTHANASIA POLICY (BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT)
An Authorized Officer [appointed by BLM] will euthanize (shoot) or authorize the euthanasia of a wild horse or burro when any of the
following conditions exist.
1) A chronic or incurable disease, injury, lameness, or serious physical defect (includes severe tooth loss or wear, club foot, and other severe acquired or congenital abnormalities);
A Henneke body condition score of less than three with a poor or hopeless prognosis for improvement;
3) An acute or chronic illness, injury, physical condition, or lameness that cannot be treated or has a poor or hopeless prognosis for
4) An order from a state or federal animal health official authorizing the humane destruction of the animals(s) as a disease control measure;
5) The animal exhibits dangerous characteristic beyond those inherently
associated with the wild characteristics of wild horses and burros; or
6) The animal poses a public safety hazard (e.g., loose on a busy highway) and an alternative remedy (capture or return to a herd management area (HMA) is not immediately
In some cases, the decision to euthanize an animal must be made in the field and cannot always be anticipated. When possible, a veterinarian should be consulted prior to euthanasia unless circumstances necessitating euthanasia are obvious
(e.g., a broken leg or other severe injury) and a logistical delay in obtaining this consultation would only prolong an animal's suffering).
Arrangements for carcass disposal for euthanized animals will be in accordance with applicable state and country
laws and ordinances.
Under this policy, there should be no animals who need to be euthanized at any holding facility, but BLM apparently does not have the authority to destroy healthy, sound animals.