Government's Wild Horse Euthanasia Advice Not Unexpected

Wild Horse advocate Karen Sussman said she wasn't surprised that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended euthanasia as an option of last resort for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro management problems. But she doubts the BLM will be able to exercise it without a fight.

"U.S. citizens will rise up against this," said Sussman, president of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, based in South Dakota.

The GAO issued its long-awaited assessment of BLM wild horse management practices to Congress on Oct. 9. The report, which was posted publicly earlier this week, concluded that if the nation's Wild Horse and Burro Program was to survive, the BLM must seriously consider euthanizing excess horses.

The BLM currently manages more than 33,000 horses and burros on 199 herd management areas in 10 western states. Herd populations double every four years. The Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 1971 authorizes the BLM to euthanize excess horses. But rather than risk public outcry against euthanasia, the BLM opted to relocate expanding herds from their ranges to short- and long-term holding facilities. The BLM will spend 74% of its $37 million budget this year to maintain the more than 30,000 horses currently residing in those facilities.

In June, BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson announced that economics were driving the agency to ponder euthanasia as an excess horse problem solution. Bisson deferred decision pending GAO audit results. According to BLM spokesman Tom Gorey, the BLM won't make its euthanasia decision until after the agency's National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting Nov. 17 in Reno, Nev.

Wild horse advocates have been preparing for that meeting for months, Sussman said. She and others are prepared to argue that the BLM should take the euthanasia option off the table and embrace widespread fertility control, better range management practices, and private sector herd adoptions instead.

"There are always other alternatives to killing horses," she said. "We'll see what happens next week."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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