The Humane Society of the United States expressed its concerns about the actions of the Bureau of Land Management after an HSUS executive witnessed a BLM contractor appear to hogtie and leave a lost foal in the path of stampeding mustangs at the Desatoya Wild Horse Gather near Austin, Nev. The continued negligence and inhumane treatment of animals in the field is at odds with the agency’s stated vision and goal of improving and reforming its wild horse gather procedures.

The incident was witnessed by Holly Hazard, senior vice president of Programs and Innovations for the HSUS, who attended the gather as an observer to determine if BLM was incorporating HSUS recommended changes (PDF) in standard operating procedures.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. PDT on Thursday, Aug. 16, after several bands of horses had successfully been herded into a trap, Hazard saw a BLM contractor ride out on horseback to collect a stray foal. When the young horse resisted moving deep into the gather trap, Hazard watched the BLM contractor appear to hogtie the foal and then leave her in the path of galloping horses. Once the band of horses was safely captured, instead of aiding the foal, BLM instead gave the go ahead for another band of horses to run around and past her again.

“The Bureau of Land Management has made significant progress in reforming its wild horse program in recent years—but the agency must set a higher standard and not allow such callous disregard for animals to take place in its operations,” said Hazard. “The public has been calling for more transparency and responsible treatment of animals in the wild horse and burro program, and it’s time for the BLM’s stated goals and objectives to be applied in the field as well.”

The Desatoya gather is slated to occur for two weeks with the goal of gathering 500 wild horses and applying the fertility control drug PZP to approximately 64 females who will be released.

As a result of the incident, The HSUS is calling on BLM to:

  • Immediately review its protocols and make all changes necessary in order to ensure that no contractor has the authority to unnecessarily stress any animal in its custody and control in the name of gather efficiency;
  • Review previous HSUS requests to develop and implement a Humane Observer program that would allow a knowledgeable, objective witness to intervene at gathers in order to prevent similar incidents from occurring during gather operations;
  • Deliver a status report on the young foal in question, including information on her overall health and well-being and whether the foal was reunited with her mother at the temporary holding facility.

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