Bill Rider Makes Wild Horses Eligible for Slaughter

Some feral horses and burros rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are now eligible to be sold at public auctions to the highest bidder.

The appropriations bill for 2005 (H.R. 4818) was made public law on Dec. 7. This bill had a rider attached to it on Nov. 20, 2004, by Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana that concerned the wild horse and burro adoption program funding. Sec. 142 of the bill says that all wild horses and burros over the age of 10 years, or those animals that have not been successfully offered for adoption at least three times, will be made for sale without any limitation. This means the animal could go to public auction and sold to the highest bidder, including a slaughter buyer. The number of wild horses and burros an individual can adopt in a one-year period was also made unlimited.

The Section 142 rider will override Section 3, part D, of The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which states, "Where excess animals have been transferred to a qualified individual for adoption and private maintenance pursuant to this Act and the Secretary determines that such individual has provided humane conditions, treatment, and care for such animal or animals for a period of one year, the Secretary is authorized upon application by the transferee to grant title to not more than four animals to the transferee at the end of the one-year period."

According to Sec. 142 of H.R. 4818, the funds generated from the sale of the excess animals will be, "(a) credited as an offsetting collection to the Management of Lands and Resources appropriation for the Bureau of Land Management; and (b) used for the costs relating to the adoption of wild free-roaming horses and burros, including the costs of marketing such adoption."

On Dec. 3, Burns told the Billings Gazette his amendment was to give the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) authorization to sell unadoptable horses and reduce horse herd numbers to better match the carrying capacity of the land.

"I know it's an emotional issue," Burns stated in the article, "but you have to have some kind of tool to manage the herd and protect the range."

Opposing the Sec. 142 rider is Particia M. Fazio, PhD, director of the Center for Wild Horse and Burro Research in Cody, Montana.  Fazio was quoted in the Gazette as saying, "There are just other ways to deal with the problem than sneaking in a rider and hoping no one will notice." One of her suggestions as an alternative to the auctioning of horses was to continue using the contraception methods pioneered by a Billings, Mont., scientist and giving that method a chance to reduce herd numbers.

Burns said the current BLM adoption program has not worked as well as expected, and many of the horses and burros are living in feedlot conditions for years before they either die or are adopted. "These are horses with hearts and free spirits," Burns continued. "They're being held in confinement, not on the open range."

Celicia Boddington, a BLM spokeswoman, told the Gazette there are 14,000 wild horses in long-term holding facilities (there are a 10 such facilities in the United States) awaiting adoption, with 8,300 over the age of 10 years. Another 36,000 wild horses and burros are grazing free on public lands in the West.

Today, the Humane Society of the United States released a statement on behalf of 55 organizations, urging Congress to pass legislation rescinding the rider (

About the Author

Marcella M. Reca Zipp, MS

Marcella Reca Zipp, M.S., is a former staff writer for The Horse. She is completing her doctorate in Environmental Education and researching adolescent relationships with horses and nature. She lives with her family, senior horse, and flock of chickens on an island in the Chain O'Lakes.

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