Federal Contraception Program to Control Wild Horse Numbers in US Takes One More Step
Federal lawmakers are on track to commit funds in the next fiscal year to a humane fertility control program for wild horses.
On Monday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee included critical guidance in the Home Appropriations Bill, which will cover the next fiscal year, for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to administer reversible control vaccines. fertility to wild horses.
In July, House owners also set aside significant funds to scale up the use of fertility-control vaccines.
This is the first time Congress has reserved dedicated funding for the BLM to develop a cruelty-free fertility control program.
The Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign applauded the Senate Appropriation Committee for including the funding.
Senate owners have provided $ 11 million to the BLM, which manages most of America’s wild horses, to administer reversible fertility-control vaccines, such as the widely-supported Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine, which is effective. 90% to prevent pregnancy in horses.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) championed the inclusion of funding to “implement a strong, humane fertility control strategy”.
The request was supported by many legislators in Western states, as well as key members of the Appropriations Committee.
The committee explicitly noted that reversible immunocontraceptive vaccines are available for the BLM to use immediately as a means to curb population growth.
The BLM should report within 45 days with its strategy for an immunization initiative.
To date, the agency has refused to implement effective fertility control measures that would keep herds on the course. Instead, he regularly removes wild horses through helicopter roundups.
The BLM currently spends less than 1% of its Wild Horse and Burro program budget on fertility control, but spends around $ 60 million per year to remove wild horses from public lands designated for their use, the groups noted. defense.
Captured horses are moved to off-course holding facilities for the rest of their lives.
In July, House officials also set aside significant funding to scale up the use of fertility-control vaccines, meaning House and Senate bills are aligned to order the BLM to continue this management approach.
Importantly, Senate language also recognizes that a strategy based on deletions is counterproductive because it has “the unintended effect of increasing foaling.” This echoes the National Academy of Sciences’ key finding that roundups accelerate rates of population growth through a biological phenomenon called compensatory reproduction.
In addition to maintaining long-standing essential provisions to prevent wild horses and burros from being sent to slaughter, the Senate bill further calls on the Home Office to form an interagency council to s ‘take care of the management of wild horses and burro.
However, the language of appropriations from within the Senate was not uniformly positive for wild horses. The committee noted that it supported the decision of the previous administration report to Congress on the management of feral horses, which called for accelerated withdrawals, which would increase the number of feral horses held in captivity. The Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign have called the position misguided, saying costs in the first five years alone could reach nearly $ 1 billion.
This stance on expedited removals notwithstanding, comprehensive House and Senate directives would otherwise result in significant reforms to the federal Wild Horse and Burro agenda, the two advocacy groups said.
“This is the first time Congress has set aside dedicated funding for the Bureau of Land Management to develop a cruelty-free fertility control program – something which is desperately needed to break the costly and inefficient round-up cycle and keep the horses wild in their natural habitats, ”said Joanna Grossman, Equine Program Manager and Senior Advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute.
“The BLM has largely refused to use proven and safe immunocontraceptive vaccines, so we are grateful that lawmakers in the House and Senate have taken decisive action to address this problem and put the BLM on a more sustainable path towards recovery. management of wild horses. “
Holly Gann Bice, director of government relations for the American Wild Horse Campaign, said the group applauded the Senate Appropriations Committee for what she described as a historic step towards reforming the Wild Horse and Burro program by providing $ 11 million in fertility control funding. .
It was, she said, a humane management strategy on the rangelands that will ultimately help keep these animals in the wilderness where they belong.
“We are deeply grateful to Senator Booker, Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Merkley and others for providing the leadership necessary to put the BLM on a better course for the humane management of our Western herds.”