Wild Horse Education

Follow Owyhee Wild Horses (Part 3): Facility Investigation (FOIA)

WHE volunteer Colette Kaluza took on the challenge of attending the long winter roundup and tracking the impacts to the captives. She has prepared a 3-part series: part 1 – the roundup, part 2 – crafting a comprehensive welfare report and part 3 – tracking the wild ones into holding.

Follow Owyhee Wild Horses (Part 3): Facility Investigation (FOIA)

Wild horses rounded up by helicopter from the Owyhee Complex area in Nevada 2021 were taken to corral facility at Sutherland, Utah. 

Wild horses and burros are being removed from federal public lands because their habitats are being fragmented and lost.  Education is the power to change that.

The public needs to know what happened to the Owyhee horses removed and transported to Sutherland.

Foal has slipped through the bars and is in the alley. Sutherland, 2022

Since its opening two years ago, Sutherland has hosted one public tour, which we attended in June 2022 and wrote about impressions in this frank article.  The manner in which feed is distributed looks like a feed yard for cattle; doesn’t it?

G & R Livestock, its Delta company, won the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) contract to operate the facility.  The outfit already operates an existing feed yard for cattle.  This facility is closed to the public, on private land and a private operation, as apposed to facilities that are on public lands (BLM) and routinely open to the public.  This is a new trend of lack of transparency.  BLM did its first internal Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP) Report assessing the facility in July 2022.  Will BLM do anything to hold Sutherland accountable for violations cited in its report?  Some of Wild Horse Education’s other investigative reports are here.   

Owyhee Complex area horses were rounded up and removed Oct. 14–Nov. 9, 2021. Information on the roundup can be obtained firsthand by attending roundups because of our legal successes and we observed and reported on the roundup daily.  Other information is opaque.

BLM holds onto much information with a clenched fist.  We have to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  FOIA is to ensure the public is aware of all the government’s information and provided with the information it wants upon request.  Data once easily available to the public and facilities open to the public are less since 2016.

BLM’s mantra is less than 1% of wild horses die from a roundup.  But in what context?  BLM has expanded and overused “pre-existing condition,” which is not reported as death from the roundup.  This ruse BLM uses as cover for its actions is made worse because the moment once-wild horses leave their homes by semitruck any death is not recorded as roundup-related–period.  It is reasonable to say these horses had the physicality it took to run over uneven terrain in the cold for 7 miles and more, driven by a helicopter and fear into a trap and trapped that most would be alive if not for this roundup.  The roundup was the triggering event that set off a chain of events.  What happened to the horses after arriving at the facility?

The value in FOIA is knowing what to request and how to analyze the information.  WHE has the acquired skills for this because of its long-standing interests and accomplishments in protecting wild horses and their habitats. However, analyses and findings are based on the quality and quantity of data BLM provided.  Some of the critical data our FOIA requested was not provided are blanks in our graph, which could be filled by filing appeals, which could reveal additional deaths, maybe double.  Let’s see where the data BLM has provided takes us.

Of the 934 wild horses captured at the Owyhee Complex, 542 are documented as being sent to Sutherland. 27 died during capture and another 38 died in the first 6 months post capture. The BLM daily update stated 531 shipped and we are looking into the discrepancy. BLM noted that 362 (195 Stallions, 162 PZP treated Mares, and 5 Foals) were released. The numbers do not add up. We are continuing the investigation.

542 horses went from living free on the range to being at Sutherland facility.  BLM has not provided critical receipts/invoices needed to recheck its math and to determine any additional deaths for a death total for these horses.

BLM reported 23 deaths at the facility by the second month, 4.2% death rate; 38 deaths over six months, 7% death rate. 15 horses died before even getting their identifying freezemark brand (testing, vaccinations, deworming).  Are these deaths due to lack of care, injuries untreated, stress-provoked, broken heart?

Still births and aborted are not reported.  Five months after mares were rounded up 32 foals were born.  If death ensued for foals it would not be included (identified) in BLM death statistics.  New foals do not have a description, identification, neck tag #.

BLM reported on disposition (adoption or sale eligible):

381 horses are eligible for adoption.  23 horses were adopted in six months, 80 in eight months.  40 are eligible for sale-age.

40 horses labeled “eligible for sale-age” are the most vulnerable horses putting them in Sale Authority category allowing to be sold immediately to a kill buyer for purpose of slaughter.  Adoption Incentive Program is a separate category placing younger horses in jeopardy of being re-sold and in turn vulnerable. (more on title transfer HERE)

The public does not have opportunity to view or adopt horses, other than infrequently-scheduled tours or appointment to adopt.  BLM has a putrid preference to bring about more closed facilities.  94 live horses left facility in six months; 16 were eligible for sale-age, the balance eligible for adoption.

Wild horses look over a pile of scraped manure.

Here are some Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy standards for facilities that are of public interest:

Facilities must conduct Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) testing and apply freezemarks within 30 days of receiving WH&BS, unless directed by the facility veterinarian when age or physical condition requires a delay.  And facilities must adhere to the current BLM vaccination policy;

Health care protocols must be in accordance with program guidelines and accepted by the facility veterinarian for preventative health care procedures (vaccinations, deworming, hoof trimming, freezemarking);

Animals must be evaluated daily by facility personnel to identify animals in poor body condition, poor hoof condition, injured, or in need of veterinary evaluation/treatment, and/or supplemental feeding.  And consult with on-site/on-call veterinarian to establish and review biosecurity and health care decisions;

The decision to euthanize and method of euthanasia must be directed by the Authorized Officer(s) who may consult with the on-site/on-call veterinarian;

Routine presence by an on-site or on-call veterinarian must be provided at each facility with records of those visits maintained at the facility.

BLM provided data regarding the standards (above), which we have sorted through:

Not all the Equine Infectious Anemia testing was completed within 30 days.  And the 6-month booster vaccinations were not being administered timely;

5 horses received some care beyond basic health care protocols (vaccinations, deworming, hoof trimming) and gelding-related care.  And other sources show pens that should be provided and used to segregate sick, infectious, injured, or weak horses are being used for saddle horses;

3 horses were euthanized after consult with veterinarian;

23 veterinarian visits listed in the “Veterinarian Daily Diary.”

Born in Sutherland. Out of site except for a single public tour.

Based on the information BLM provided, compliance with standards are concerning.  Records must be provided of routine visits by the veterinarian.  The “Veterinarian Daily Diary” record lists 23 dates, within the pertinent six-month period.  However, it appears the veterinarian visits are in general.  It cannot be discerned when or if the Owyhee horses are recipients of the visits.  Owyhee horses are not named, while Pancake horses are named.

There must also be daily evaluations of animals by facility personnel to identify needs of horses as cited in the standard.  There are no notations or records provided other than as described (in the freezemark branding sentence above) and the Veterinarian Daily Diary, for care and treatment of the Owyhee horses, or maybe generally the horses at the facility, over the period of six months.

3 horses were euthanized after consult with veterinarian, while 15 Owyhee horses were euthanized, so majority without consult with veterinarian, and although consult is not required, it is worth noting the BLM euthanasia policy has been broadened.   

Finally, BLM should be required to include facility reports, as was its past practice, of facility intake and veterinarian reports.  It is on the public to appreciate our purpose and work product to educate and expose to better understand wild horse issues and the consequences of not knowing.

In conclusion, lack of transparency permeates the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program.  If BLM were more interested in solving problems than hiding them there would be a seismic shift for the common good.  Horses are only allowed to live in their boundary lines drawn on maps labeled “Herd Management Areas.”  They share their habitats with industry.  BLM’s roots are in industry, which collides with its newer duty to protect and preserve wild horses and their habitats, as industry expands without effort to lessen its impact.  BLM knows the importance and requirement to develop herd management area plans.  The public should not be distracted by so-called “solutions,” curtail horses from reproducing, or slaughter horses.

It is up to the public to ignore the noise and focus on the issues.  Our public lands are being severely damaged by industry because it finds ways to get away with it.  The 1971 Wild Horse Act gives wild horses legal standing in their herd management areas.  The real solution begins with public demand for BLM to develop herd management area plans to the benefit of wild horses and the other animals it shares its habitats with, and our public lands.  It matters what we support.

(Below is data provided by BLM for veterinarian visits.)

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This was the third part in a series tracking Owyhee wild horses: a  part 1 – the roundup, part 2 – crafting a comprehensive welfare report and part 3 – tracking the wild ones into holding.

Our teams are continuing to track wild horse and burros into the system from the roundups of the last 3 years. BLM has overloaded facilities after a record shattering year of removals in 2022. (more HERE)

Our ongoing investigation into the true cost in lives of roundups is demonstrating the average death rate at 12%. You can learn more HERE.

We are also busy gathering data, engaging and litigating further roundup plans.

Help keep us in the fight.

Categories: Wild Horse Education