KBR Wild Horse and Burro News

The "Final Solution" for Wild Horses?

  Senate Appropriations Bill Directs BLM to Sell
Wild Horses and Burros for Slaughter

Story date: November 21, 2004
Updated December 12, 2004
A bumblebee is usually faster than a John Deere Tractor
Washington, DC
Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, with the apparent support of Senators Byron Dorgan, of North Dakota and Harry Reid of Nevada (Note 1), secretly inserted into the Senate appropriations bill a rider that directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to dispose of excess wild horses and burros "without limitation" including at livestock sales and public auctions. Wild horse advocates fear that this action could conceivably initiate the largest wholesale slaughter of horses in North America.

Here is the actual language of the rider.

(a) In General. - Section 3 of Public Law 92-195 (16 U.S.C. 1333) is
amended -

  (1) in subsection (d)(5), by striking "this section" and all that
  follows through the period at the end and inserting "this section.";

  (2) by adding at the end the following:

"(e) Sale of Excess Animals. -

 "(1) In General. - Any excess animal or the remains of any excess
  animal shall be sold if -

   "(A) the excess animal is more than ten years of age; or

   "(B) the excess animal has been offered unsuccessfully for adoption
     at least three times.

 "(2) Method of Sale. - An excess animal that meets either of the
 criteria in paragraph (1) shall be made available for sale without
 limitation, including through auction to the highest bidder, at local
 sale yards or other convenient livestock selling facilities, until such
 time as-

   "(A) all excess animals offered for sale are sold; or

   "(B) the appropriate management level, as determined by the
    Secretary, is attained in all areas occupied by wild free-roaming
    horses and burros."

This language means that all horses and burros ten years and older, and any horse or burro unfortunate to have been sent to three adoptions but not be adopted, is at risk of being "dumped" at a public sale.

The bill further states that "Any excess animal sold under this provision shall no longer be considered to be a wild free-roaming horse or burro for purposes of this act." That statement dissolves these animals' safety net and without question these animals could potentially be acquired by the killer buyers.

Having no line veto authority President Bush signed the omnibus bill into Law and Senator Burns' rider became what is presently known as "Sale Authority."

Wild horse advocates voice two primary concerns regarding this issue.

  • The measure itself is extreme. It requires BLM to "dump" huge numbers of formerly protected wild horses onto the marketplace.

  • The measure is representative of what many regard as the sleazy politics of the current era. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was strongly supported by the American public and passed unanimously by Congress in 1971. Senator Burns gutted this long standing public law through a rider surreptitiously slipped at the last minute into the huge spending bill, avoiding any public scrutiny or open debate.
Note 1: Senator Reid's involvement was reported by the Nevada Appeal on 11/24/04. Read the Story

Subsequent Developments:

After two groups of Sale Authority horses ended up at the Cavel International Slaughterhouse in DeKalb, IL, the BLM temporarily suspended sales. The agency subsequently issued new sale guidelines and required buyers to certify that they were not purchasing horses for purposes of reselling for commercial products such as slaughter. Considering the specific language used in Senator Burns' rider, some legal analysts have expressed their doubts as to whether BLM's requirements are legally binding.

The BLM has subsequently developed some new sale "strategies," including a program that involves Ford Motor Company's Take Pride in America Foundation where modest financial assistance will be offered to qualified non-profit horse groups who are willing to accept some of these horses for permanent sanctuary or supervise their placement with caring private parties. Another group, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) is working with a consortium of Native American tribes to place numbers of these animals with them. Many of the free-roaming herds had historic relationships with Native Americans and the animals would be suitable for cultural and heritage projects.

With the large number of older horses in long term holding facilities this problem will not easily be solved even with the help of Take Pride in America, the wild horse groups and the Native Americans. As a result two measures are before Congress to restore horse protections, although it is unclear at present whether either or both will pass.

  • H.R. 297, the Sweeny-Spratt bill to restore wild horse protections.

  • S. 1915, the Virgie S. Arden American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

Snoopy Stumps for Wild Horses

Wild horse advocates use whatever means we have to inform the public! Getting the news media interested in the story is a key point.

When KTVU in Reno, NV showed interest in the wild horses, LRTC volunteers in Stagecoach, NV recruited "Snoopy," an unadopted BLM special needs horse, to stump for the cause. (Little Snoopy is a living example of just the kind of horse that would likely be sold for slaughter under Senator Burns' language.)

Click here to see photos of the news story filming.

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