Yesterday the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced their 2013 fiscal year (begins October 1, 2012) wild horse and burro roundup schedule today.
On the schedule are Herd Management Areas (HMA) that have become very familiar to the public in the last few years. Challis in Idaho where Elissa Kline wrote a report that included documentation of a helicopter chasing a single horse and coming so close that the horse could actually kick at the chopper. The Owyhee Complex where BLM closed public land, lost the public land closure in Federal Court and then denied public access to witness a single horse removed from Owyhee. The Antelope Complex roundup of winter 2011 that demonstrated conduct the public found outrageous, but an internal BLM review found acceptable. Triple B where conduct gained the agency a Temporary Restraining Order, and later an Injunction, to pilot conduct after a helicopter apparently hit a horse with the skids (this case is a part of ongoing litigation that addresses inhumane treatment).
note: The schedule calls for about 3,500 horses to be removed even though just three months ago the agency claimed to only have about a thousand spaces left in holding.
The tentative, partial year, schedule is announced without any concrete action taken by the agency to address conduct the agency itself found “unacceptable” in the review done after Federal Judge Howard J. McKibben shut down helicopter operations at Triple B last August.
The BLM’s own Triple B Team Review found: “Horses were observed being struck in the face, and often confused due to aggressive loading procedures and excessive pressure by multiple handlers. Several videos reveal that a few horses were repeatedly shocked with an electrical animal prod, sometimes in the face, and in one case, the use of this electrical prod led to a horse becoming stuck in a panel at the loading site. Some videos reveal horses being struck in more than one instance with the trailer gate to induce loading, and in one instance a horse appears to have been kicked in the head by a Sun J employee. In one video it appears that a horse was dragged into a trailer by a rope around its neck.”
In December of last year Nevada state Director Amy Lueders issued an “Intent statement” in order to address the ongoing unacceptable conduct at roundups.
The Las Vegas Review Journal citing an AP report printed: “That is the best way to stop horse advocates from undermining the agency’s roundup policies with video footage of the mistreatment of the animals and making it harder for federal land managers to win the public’s trust,” Amy Lueders said.
Yet at the Calico roundup, that was occurring as Lueders Intent went to BLM employees and contractors, the exact conduct was being documented that her “Memorandum” was intended to address. Burros were hotshot, an old mare run to collapse, animals repeatedly run at traps were some of the things documented by advocates.
At the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board meeting that took place in April of this year, Dean Bolstad (BLM National) gave a report stating that a Humane Handling policy would be in place by July 2012.
Wild horse and burro advocates find the announcement of a new roundup schedule, without first addressing issues of inappropriate treatment, by the agency irresponsible to the Congressional mandate to protect these animals.
“Round-ups of America’s wild horses are inhumane.” said Declan Gregg, the young founder of Children4Horses, “The horses are being chased by helicopters, terrifying them and sometimes even hitting them. They are run over long distances even in extreme heat and often arrive in pens exhausted and hurt or lame. After round-ups, the wild horses who have been captured, loose their freedom and live out their lives in ‘pens’ if they are not part of an adoption program and many have eventually ended up in a slaughterhouse. Wild horse round-ups are unnecessary, cruel and inhumane.”
In June of this year BLM found themselves yet again in a Federal courtroom to keep them accountable to their own policy against running foals by helicopter in all but emergency situations during their defined “foaling season” at Jackson Mountain. That litigation was successful and resulted in another Temporary Restraining Order restricting the agency to operations only in areas of documented emergency.
In August of this year the HSUS issued a report citing what it called inhumane treatment at the Desatoya roundup. The reported conduct alleged a foal being roped and left as other wild horses were driven in past the downed animal.
Wild Horse Education (WHE) has posted a sample letter to the BLM, and suggested recipients, addressing the lack of policy addressing the humane care of an American Heritage Species. They ask that you visit their page and join them in addressing this issue.
“It’s difficult to understand – why, during the majority of removal operations, wild equines are denied even the most basic humane handling.” said WHE volunteer Lisa LeBlanc, “Nevada statutes consider over-driving and excessive striking of an animal – any animal – illegal and punishable by law. The BLM had stated, months ago, it is setting forth policy for humane standards during removals and after care, but the policy remains elusive, and loosely interpreted and no policy has ever been truthfully adopted in practice. ”
Wild Horse Education is supporting ongoing litigation to address issues of humane care within the wild horse and burro program.