Wild Horse Euthanasia Decision Postponed by BLM

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) isn't likely to make a decision regarding the use of euthanasia in wild horse herd management until the end of the year, a spokesman said. The euthanasia option decision was originally expected to come shortly after the fall meeting of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Council.

Spokesman Tom Gorey said the agency will reserve its decision until after the Advisory Council meets in Reno, Nev., in October, and until the U.S. General Accounting Office presents its yearlong audit of BLM operations to the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee in September.

"We won't make a decision until those two things happen," Gorey said. "And there is no concrete date for announcing a decision about the euthanasia option."

"We've received thousands of responses, and they're running 2-1 against exercising the euthanasia option. We recognize that is an unpopular option to consider."
--BLM Spokesman Tom Gorey
BLM Deputy Director Henri Bisson presented the euthanasia option during the June 30 meeting of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Council as a way to cope with increasing herd sizes and a shrinking budget. The agency has long had the legal option to euthanize for management purposes, but it has been reluctant to exercise it.

The announcement raised the ire of horse welfare advocates and the general public, who submitted 11,000 e-mails on the issue after BLM solicited public comments via a link on its Web site. According to Sally Spencer, supervising Wild Horse and Burro program marketing manager, 25% of those respondents supported wild horse euthanasia and/or sale, 50% were vehemently opposed to both options, and 25% were opposed euthanasia and sale, but offered alternative solutions such as fertility control.

"I can say we've received thousands of responses, and they're running 2-1 against exercising the euthanasia option," Gorey said. "We recognize that is an unpopular option to consider."

According to Gorey, there are currently 33,000 wild horses on the range. Range managers say an acceptable level would be 27,300. Meanwhile, 22,000 horses age 5 years and older reside in long-term holding facilities, where they will live out their lives. Another 8,000 potentially adoptable horses reside in short-term facilities where they are maintained until they can be placed in private homes.

Last year, the BLM spent $22 million of its $39 million budget on holding facilities. Next year's costs are projected to account for $26 million of the agency's total $37 million budget.

While the BLM ponders its options, some equine welfare advocates have established a relief fund to help defray herd management costs via private sector donations.

Co-founder Susan Pohlman explained the fund would be held in a private-sector, interest bearing, privately administered trust fund. Funds would not go directly to the BLM, but the agency could benefit from trust revenue by submitting invoices for fund administrators’ consideration.

The fundraising project is among several proposals her group has presented to the BLM.

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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