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Fight Against Abuse

On the Anniversary of the first court case, first win against abuse of wild horses and burros, we are asking for your help to get the fight back on track!

We are trying to get an open hearing on the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP). The agency must open the policy to public review and comments for revision. In addition, we are trying to require BLM CAWP Team to review public documentation for the days they are not in attendance, which is most of the time. The policy must be reviewed and revised and any assessments must be comprehensive, not simply a minimal effort to claim they do assessments. 

You can add your name by clicking HERE.

The letter will be used by WHE to present to lawmakers, BLM CAWP team, BLM leadership and, possibly, the courts if we are not heard.

2011, intense, fast-speed chase of a single horse where the chopper appeared to make contact. This was almost a daily occurrence. Copyright, Laura Leigh. (This shot was taken on a day BLM tried to lose the observer on the range, and she was on the opposite side of the mountain from trap trying to catch up. If they had not played so many games with the observer, this sequence of images may never have surfaced in the public eye.)

Today, you can visit the BLM website and see daily logs (and sometimes photos) of roundups you couldn’t see back in 2010.

You can go to the BLM website and visit a page labelled “Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program” and see a list of internal reviews from facilities and roundups. There is even a space to extend these published internal reviews to include categories on-range, long-term pastures and even placement into private care statistics. There was no such page in 2010; there was not even a handling policy to carry out the mandates of the law.

These portals and assessments (and the policy itself) did not always exist. It was a long hard fight just to get them… and there is a long way to go. 

There are serious deficits that we need to address in the way the agency conducts internal oversight. These issues can be addressed through multiple processes, including further litigation as the BLM processes fail to provide the protections mandated under law.

WHE Postcard from 2012.


 

After witnessing a 9-month-old colt run so hard on volcanic rock with a helicopter (5 feet off his backside) our founder was horrified. She later saw him in a pen, one of 3 pens, that contained limping and bandaged foals. The 9-month-old was suffering hoof slough (his feet were literally falling off) after the trauma he suffered. It was shocking to discover that there was no policy that stopped abuses during capture (or even a national standard for care after injury such as this).

In those early days no one really went to roundups except a few days a year. BLM did not do “daily updates.” The “daily observer” was something BLM had not experienced before and it was definitely unwelcome. Our team even had to begin litigation just to see what was going on!

At the next roundups she began to see incidents that even included contractors climbing up panels to kick a horse in the head. It was so obviously and unnecessarily brutal; as if all the frustrations of the job, home life, whatever, were being taken out on the horses. There were even times the contractors refused to simply fill water tubs in blistering heat!

BLM kept saying “nothing was wrong” and the media kept reporting roundups were humane… because a federal employee with a logo on a shirt said it was so.

After a court case (filed by another org) failed to stop the roundup of wild horses from Triple B, our founder went to document the consequences.  The operation was brutal and the documented conduct outrageous. The roundup targeted 1,430 wild horses and began on July 2 and was ended early.

On August 11, 2011, a helicopter appeared to bump a wild horse with the skids. The first legal case in history was filed against abuse. Against the odds (and opinions of all the “wild horse lawyers” of that day) the case stopped the chopper. This type of legal action has to happen fast; it is not easy.

That ruling, August 31, 2011, marked the beginning of the fight to gain an enforceable policy to follow one of the most basic mandates of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, humane management. 

Additional litigation, assessments, negotiations and more, each represent stepping stones of progress toward reaching that goal. We continue the struggle.


The fight against abuse, and the fight to gain access to document roundups on a daily basis, lasted several years and built off each other.


Since 2017 the fight to protect and preserve our wild horses has revolved around one inaccurate (and highly manipulative) discussion: “helicopter vs PZP.” There are multiple substances and methods to suppress population growth; none of them stop helicopter roundups, abuse, change on-range management, adjust forage allocations or stop the slide to slaughter.

Wild horses and burros are part of the conversation of public lands:  They live in the law books governing public lands. Even the fight against abuse must be done in the arena of public lands processes. Advocacy involves distinct engagement on many levels.

“Fertility control” is not management, it is a potential tool after on-range management is defined and advocacy for resource allocation/preservation has been completed. It does not address abuses during capture and in holding that will continue with, or without, fertility control.

The SAFE Act (stopping transport to slaughter) will stop those that are adopted/sold from going to slaughter. But it won’t stop the killing of horses in overcrowded facilities if Congress decides it costs too much to feed and house them. The SAFE Act is important, we urge you to continue asking your Senate reps to get it to a vote, but it is one layer to address one issue. We also have to address the policy that could allow simply outright “euthanasia” as an option.

It is vital to keep each piece of the fight running on track. 

Each layer of advocacy must follow a distinct pathway to address each distinct issue. ALL paths must be taken and respected for what they need to accomplish as part of the whole; or what we will get will look just like what we see now. 

This article is about one layer: the fight against abuse. 

Triple B, 2018

 


As our team wraps up documenting the “before, during and after” of the 42-day roundup at Triple B in 2022, we need your help to get the fight against abuse out from under corporate agenda. We have seen changes over the last decade, but the fight against abuse still has a long way to go. 

You can view our reporting for the public from Triple B:  You can view team reports from 7/15-8/9 HERE.From 8/10 and conclusion HERE. 

Documenting a roundup to create litigation (or documentation to utilize in formal process) is different than taking pictures for things like a book or our social media. When a roundup ends, we do a review of daily actions that include correlating things like accidents and rate of temperature rise. At this operation, our team member was literally harassed by BLM personnel and a member of the public when she tried to use the equipment we provided (things can get weird). Not only was conduct with wild horse capture in need of improvement, the way the agency interfaced with the public was unacceptable from public servants getting a paycheck and pension off the taxpayer dime. 

The BLM internal CAWP team was “present” for only 3 days, July 18-20, of a 42 day operation. We do not know if that means 1 day at trap, 1 day at holding, 1 day in the office? Their review contains no dates noted for any infraction they list. The review is tragically deficient in scope and attention to detail. The operation ended on August 25. The BLM review of this roundup was published July 22, more than a month before the roundup ended. (HERE)

We will send our completed review to the agency and ask that it be included in the permanent record of the operation. It usually takes us about 30 days to complete our full review of an operation this long. We were onsite for the full 42 days of operation. You can see the beginning of a draft, work-in-progress, of our counter assessment to the one the BLM published HERE.

BLM will claim that in addition to the CAWP assessment they will do an “After Action Review” of the entire operation as required under regulations to be completed by all Incident Commanders (IC); no, they won’t.  Most of the the time they say they don’t need to do them. When the area is facing potential litigation they might complete one that might as well have been written on a napkin in the local bar. (One that we received as part of an ongoing FOIA investigation WHE has been compiling for about 10 months, results will publish early next year. You can see the document we received in response to our request for the entire After Action Review of the Pancake Complex, where there is active litigation, HERE.)


On the Anniversary of the first court case, first win against abuse of wild horses and burros, we are asking for your help to get the fight back on track!

We are trying to get an open hearing on the Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy (CAWP). The agency must open the policy to public review and comments for revision. In addition, we are trying to require BLM CAWP Team to review public documentation for the days they are not in attendance, which is most of the time. The policy must be reviewed and revised and any assessments must be comprehensive, not simply a minimal effort to claim they do assessments. 

You can add your name by clicking HERE.

The letter will be used by WHE to present to lawmakers, BLM CAWP team, BLM leadership and, possibly, the courts if we are not heard.

WHE is working hard to get this policy to a place where it can actually have meaning to carry out the existing mandates of the law. Humane management is a key tenant of the 1971 Act. If the policy remains ineffective, and the agency continues to drag its feet to improve the policy and enforcement, we are compiling documentation to take back into a courtroom. 


Can you help keep us in the fight?

 

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Categories: Lead, Wild Horse Education