Source: HorsetalkSprinklers were installed at Palomino Valley facility on July 3, 2013
A push by wild horse advocates for better shelter for captive mustangs at a Nevada adoption center has the backing of the Humane Society of the United States. The society says about 1,800 wild horses are in a potentially dangerous situation at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center, a facility operated by the Bureau of Land Management near Reno.
Temperatures have been reaching record highs exceeding 100 degrees this month. The society says there is no shelter for the horses at the center, despite the fact the bureau requires those adopting wild horses from the agency to provide adequate shelter for the animals.
In a letter to Neil Kornze, principal deputy director of the bureau, the society urged the agency to immediately install shelter for the horses at the center, and ultimately at all of its short-term holding facilities. The society’s senior vice president of programs and innovations, Holly Hazard, said: “Wild horses on the range survive severe temperatures by seeking out shade, but the horses in the BLM’s care have no choice but to swelter in the sun. The BLM’s response to the situation — installing a sprinkler system and nothing else — falls short of its responsibility to the horses in its care, and the agency’s defense that the horses can cope in hot temperatures is unacceptable.”
The Nevada center announced on June 28 that it had installed sprinklers in three of the large, outside wild horse pens and five mare-foal pens as a stop-gap measure to attempt to reduce heat levels inside the corrals. It said staff would observe how the animals responded to the sprinklers.
But Anne Novak, the executive director of Protect Mustangs, one of the groups pushing to get shade installed for the animals, said: “Putting sprinklers in a few pens appears to be a publicity stunt when what they really need to do is create shade for this emergency situation. The BLM is full of excuses of why they can’t create shade when they need to cowboy up and make it happen. If the government can send people into space then they can figure out how to shade the captive wild horses or just return them to the range. In the wild they can migrate to shady areas. In captivity it’s cruel to deny them shade.”
However, the bureau said that shade shelters in corrals had been considered and evaluated many times. It said wild horses and burros were accustomed to open environments and when their nutritional demands were met, they did well against the natural elements, including sun, rain, snow, and hot and cold temperatures.
“Open corrals with plenty of sunlight have proven to be the best way to minimize disease-causing organisms. The BLM’s open corrals enable the drying effects of the sun and wind to take effect. Due to the temperament of the animals, the social hierarchy between the animals, and their unfamiliarity with shelters, the BLM feels that corrals without shelters are the safest approach. Shelters could create a potential obstacle for animals running and playing in the corrals, and cause significant injuries. The BLM has wind breaks and/or shelters for sick animals.”
The bureau added that it was nevertheless planning to consult the scientific research community to inform future options on this issue.
>>> Click here to read The Humane Society's Press Release
As Americans we love our dogs, we pamper our cats, but we honor and revere our horses. More than any other animal, horses were indispensable in settling the American frontier. They’ve also carried us into battle, starred in our movies and awed us with their wild spirit. We look to them as cultural and historical icons, as partners in work and sport, and as beloved companions.
We do not look at them as dinner. Not now, not ever. Yet, the blood of slaughtered American horses could soon be spilled on American soil for the first time in years — and it would happen right here in Missouri.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture made the troubling announcement that it expects to soon approve an application from a Gallatin, Mo., horse slaughter facility to begin butchering horses for their meat. This is despite a 2012 nationwide poll showing that 80 percent of Americans oppose the practice.
Americans also don’t want millions in tax dollars wasted in support of an industry with a history of traumatizing horses, polluting communities with blood and foul stenches, and destroying local economies with a ruinous stigma.
Horses are killed in slaughter plants mainly because their owners fail to keep up their end of the bargain to provide lifetime care or find a good home for animals that have come under their stewardship. Rather, they make a few bucks by selling the animals to “kill buyers” who then ship them off on a grueling trip to slaughter plants. It is not humane euthanasia but far from it — a death fraught with fear and pain for the animals.
Horses will travel to Missouri from all around the country, likely crammed in trailers for days without food, water or escape from extreme temperatures. For all the misguided arguments that try to justify slaughter on grounds beyond profit, the truth is simple: Horse slaughter is not, and never has been, the answer to neglect, abandonment, starvation and suffering. We have found over and over that so-called “unwanted horses,” if rescued from the slaughter pipeline and given a second chance, go on to win shows, ride trails and simply provide joy to people.
The USDA itself reports that more than 92 percent of horses sent to slaughter are in good condition. Instead of taking advantage of the many suitable re-homing alternatives available for horses, some owners are stuck on the wrongheaded idea that slaughter is their only remedy.
The continued availability of slaughter has led to a prevailing attitude within some segments of the horse industry that horses are a disposable commodity. Slaughter perpetuates the breeding of more and more horses, while more than 100,000 others are sentenced to die every year by owners and breeders who unload them by the pound at horse auctions.
Now, more than ever, is the time to tell our legislators that we value and respect horses — and that Missouri shouldn’t be the place where they come to die. Horse welfare and our state’s reputation are at stake.
Urge Congress to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, S. 541/H.R. 1094, which outlaws the slaughter of American horses on U.S. soil and the export of live horses across the borders for slaughter.
Amanda Good of Kansas City is the Missouri director for the Humane Society of the United States.
Source: Humane Society Legislative Fund
Though the work is far from done, this is shaping up to be a very encouraging year for animals on the appropriations front. We already reported on the House Appropriations Committee’s approval of solid funding levels to support USDA’s enforcement of key animal welfare laws, as well as its inclusion of much-needed language to stop horse slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. The Senate Appropriations Committee followed suit with parallel language de-funding USDA inspections att horse slaughter plants.
Now we’ve learned that the Senate Appropriations Committee has also come through with terrific news on funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s enforcement and implementation of key animal welfare laws. Thanks to the strong leadership of Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Ranking Member Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the Committee bill contains the full amounts requested by President Obama in his recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2014—which include substantial increases for several programs, notwithstanding the pressure to cut spending overall. The committee understood that it’s possible to achieve macro-level cuts while still taking care to ensure that specific small and vital accounts have the funds they need.
Here are details of what the Senate committee approved:
•$893,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to end the cruel practice of “soring” show horses (deliberately inflicting severe pain on the horses’ legs and hooves to make it hurt for them to step down, so they will exaggerate their high-stepping gait and win prizes). This is well above the current funding level of $678,510, as well as the House committee bill’s level of $500,000.
•$28,203,000 for USDA’s enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which sets basic standards for care of animals at almost 28,000 sites across the country—commercial breeding facilities (including puppy mills), laboratories, roadside zoos, circuses, and airlines. Current funding of AWA oversight is $26,406,304 and the House committee bill provides $27,087,000.
•$16,350,000 for USDA’s Investigative and Enforcement Services division, whose responsibilities include investigation of inspectors’ findings regarding alleged violations of federal animal welfare laws and the initiation of follow-up enforcement actions. Current funding is $15,866,009 and the House committee bill provides $16,275,000.
•$89,902,000 for USDA’s Office of Inspector General, which covers many areas including investigations and audits of the agency’s enforcement efforts to improve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act, Horse Protection Act, Humane Methods of
Slaughter Act, and regulations to protect downed animals. The Senate committee report specifically flags the OIG’s work to address animal fighting violations under the AWA, in coordination with state and local law enforcement. Current funding for the OIG is $86,779,028 and the House bill provides $86,779,000.
•Helpful committee report language directing the Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that funds provided for Humane Methods of Slaughter Act enforcement will be used to ensure compliance with humane handling rules for live animals as they arrive and are offloaded and handled in pens, chutes, and stunning areas. Similar language is in the House committee report and was included last year for FY13 Agriculture Appropriations.
•$4,790,000 for the veterinary student loan program that helps ease the shortage of veterinarians practicing in rural communities and in government positions (such as those overseeing humane slaughter, AWA, and HPA rules), by repaying student debt for those who choose to practice in one of these underserved areas. Current funding is $4,669,627 and the House bill provides $4,790,000.
Whether an animal welfare law will be effective often turns on whether it gets adequately funded. Having legislators seek that funding is crucial, especially when there are such strong competing budget pressures. We are grateful to Senators Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and David Vitter, R-La., who reached out to their colleagues and mobilized a broad showing of 34 Senators voicing bipartisan support for these animal welfare funds, as did Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., marshaling the support of 164 Representatives in the House. Their collective efforts set the stage for positive committee action,
which in turn has put us in a strong position for good outcomes in the House-Senate negotiations.
We will continue to watch the appropriations process closely and press for the highest possible amounts when the House and
Senate reach agreement on the final legislation. Proper enforcement of these laws not only helps animals but benefits people, too—for example, by protecting consumers from disreputable puppy mills and from mishandling of pets on airlines, reducing food safety risks associated with poor management at slaughter plants, and reducing the risk of bird flu transmission via cockfighting. Our fortunes are intertwined with those of animals, and doing right by them is good policy for all of us.
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