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Working for better management options and cohabitation through compromise and communication for the American Wild Mustang

BLM Releases Report by Independent Observers on Handling of Animals at Three Wild Horse Gathers

Posted by Texas Mustang Project on December 3, 2010


Bureau of Land Management
Contact: Tom Gorey, (202-912-7420)
For release: Friday, December 3, 2010

BLM Releases Report by Independent Observers on Handling of Animals at Three Wild Horse Gathers

 

The Bureau of Land Management today released a report prepared by four independent, credentialed equine professionals concerning the care and handling of wild horses and burros at three major gathers or round-ups held over the summer.  The full report, accessible at the BLM’s national Website (www.blm.gov), made several observations and findings, including the observation that, in general, “horses did not exhibit undue stress or show signs of extreme sweating or duress due to the helicopter portion of the gather, maintaining a trot or canter gait only as they entered the wings of the trap.  Rather[,] horses showed more anxiety once they were closed in the pens in close quarters; however, given time to settle, most of the horses engaged in normal behavior….”  The report also favorably noted the helicopter’s “precision” in gathering horses and burros, comparing it to “a dog working sheep.”

The four professionals who prepared the report, each of whom is an academia-based equine veterinarian or equine specialist, are Camie Heleski, Ph.D., from Michigan State University; Betsy Greene, Ph.D., from the University of Vermont; Sarah Ralston, VMD, Ph.D., from Rutgers University; and Carolyn Stull, Ph.D., from the University of California at Davis.  These four observers were selected by the Washington, D.C.-based American Horse Protection Association, whose mission is to protect and preserve wild horses and burros on U.S. public rangelands.

Other findings by the equine professionals, who observed gathers at the Owyhee Herd Management Area (Nevada), Stinking Waters Herd Management Area (Oregon), and Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (California), include:

  • contractor and BLM personnel appeared to be gentle and knowledgeable, using acceptable methods for moving horses forward at the trap sites and the temporary holding facilities;
  • chutes and pens were set up in a manner that reflected recommended handling practices for reducing animal stress in traps;
  • horses were sorted appropriately at temporary holding facilities;
  • horses were assessed by Federal veterinarians (from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS) to be capable of travel before transport to BLM holding facilities;
  • APHIS veterinarians were open and candid regarding protocols for treating injured or ill horses.  In the case of euthanasia or injuries, there was no attempt to minimize or hide any information or details related to the injuries or euthanasia procedures; and
  • when faced with unexpected and extraordinary circumstances (such as water toxemia at the Owyhee gather), BLM, APHIS, and contractor personnel demonstrated the ability to review, assess, and adapt procedures to ensure the care and well being of the animals to the best of their ability.

The independent observers also made a number of recommendations to the BLM, which can be found in the full report posted on the BLM’s Website.  The Bureau will review and respond to each recommendation.  The BLM will use the observations and findings of this report as it considers development of an independent observer program as part of the agency’s ongoing effort to put the Wild Horse and Burro Program on a sustainable track.

AHPA Final Report

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5 Responses to “BLM Releases Report by Independent Observers on Handling of Animals at Three Wild Horse Gathers”

  1. Mar Wargo said

    “when faced with unexpected and extraordinary circumstances (such as water toxemia at the Owyhee gather), BLM, APHIS, and contractor personnel demonstrated the ability to review, assess, and adapt procedures to ensure the care and well being of the animals to the best of their ability.”

    These observers came to the latter part of Owyhee after the worst had happened before the 16th? They were not there on the 10th or the 11th.

    This is a whitewash. It also does not jive with what you and Sue Cattoor told me on the 16th during the first Owyhee roundup.

    Opinion- mine. mar

  2. Lynette said

    This report will only help drive the further extinction of our American wild horses and burros. It gives the BLM more fighting power for the removal of wild horses as it states what a great job they are doing. But as long as they are being observered, then they will do a good job. Its when there is no observers around that is the problem. Say good bye now, before they are gone.

  3. Puller Lanigan said

    Who runs AHPA now? I wonder if these reports were ‘re-worked’ by BLM for their press release?

  4. First, I am disappointed that BLM’s public affairs office chose to blatantly utilize this report as an opportunity to congratulate itself on a job well done by focusing only on the positive findings contained in the eport exclusive of any of the 18 recommendations that it offers. AHPA’s offer to create a pilot program (the Independent Designated Observer Pilot Program) was never intended to be used as cover for a program that is struggling to simply stay afloat, but rather to offer a positive, constructive way to identify improvements needed in the area of equine welfare. Please, PLEASE, take the time to read the entire report and decide for yourself.
    Second, the program was a pilot and is by no means a final thesis on the care and handling of Equines during gathers. I believe AAUP is working on a similar project. All of this dovetails into BLM’s emerging animal welfare program mentioned as a component of the Secretary’s strategy, which BLM is still working on.
    T.

  5. Lisa LeBlanc said

    I think what rankles everybody is Public Affairs swooping down on the positivity of the report, presenting it as proof of good policy and then most of us realizing – recommendations from reports of this kind are rarely acknowledged or adopted.
    Remember the Kearny/West report? It kindly and gently handed the BLM it’s hat on the relationship between the Bureau & the interested Public and offered recommendations on how to resolve or minimize the disparities. I think the vast majority of people viewed it as a ‘spin’ report, and after a brief firestorm, it disappeared from view, relegated to the same limbo most of these reports go.
    And this, like the release of the most recent OIG findings, was conducted in full view and with the direct cooperation of the Bureau. How is it possible to author an unbiased report when each step was orchestrated beforehand?
    Moreover, it marginalizes so much of what Observers have seen for themselves – instances of mishandling & the perception of malevolent disregard for these animals, seemingly BECAUSE they were being observed by the general public during an unvarnished roundup.
    We view these animals as more than units of free-roaming stock; we will likely never develope the clinical eye necessary to disregard their suffering or negate them as social animals with structured lives and familial attachments. An unfortunate consequence of advocating for them is the empathy we feel for them & an unwillingness to trust those who don’t.

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