Advocates Demand Public Observation of Controversial BLM Wild Horse Sterilization Experiments

Burns, Oregon (July 20, 2016) . . . Citing the First Amendment, two leading wild horse advocacy organizations have filed a formal request to observe and record controversial surgical procedures to be performed on wild horses at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Corral Facility in Hines, Oregon. 

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and The Cloud Foundation contend that the surgical procedures to be performed by BLM in conjunction with Oregon State University (OSU) are invasive, inhumane, outdated and dangerous, and that the BLM should not be allowed to conduct them behind closed doors.

BLM and OSU are moving forward with the experiments despite receiving tens of thousands of comments opposing them. 

The groups maintain that since the BLM has stated that a major purpose of the research is to determine “the social acceptability” of the procedures, it’s vital that they be observed and recorded so the public has the opportunity to witness how the federally protected animals subject to the surgeries are being treated.

“Given that these experiments will form the basis for the BLM establishing program-wide policies, public documentation of this project is essential,” wrote attorney Nick Lawton of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Eubanks in an official request letter to the BLM. The prominent public interest law firm is representing the groups in this matter. 

“The public’s right to know what is happening to our nation’s federally protected wild horses on public property is vitally important, particularly since these controversial procedures could become routine practice by BLM,” Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “We firmly believe that once American citizens and our elected leaders see what the BLM is doing to our federally-protected wild horses, they simply won’t stand for it.” 

"The genetic viability of most wild horse herds is already at risk due to the small herd size at which they are managed. To further endanger herds by permanent sterilization is a formula for genetic disaster," said Ginger Kathrens, Humane Advocate on the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board and Volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. 

BLM and OSU intend to perform a procedure on wild mares called ovariectomy-by-colpotomy which involves a veterinarian cutting into a mare’s vaginal wall, placing his hand and arm through the vagina into the abdominal cavity, manually locating the ovaries, then severing them with a rod-like chain tool called an ecraseur.  

The surgery puts mares at risk for death from hemorrhage and infection and for evisceration – the protrusion on the bowel through the surgical incision.

75 percent of the mares who will be experimented on will be pregnant, and the procedure will cause many to have abortions.

In wild horses, it’s not possible to provide the same post-surgical care available to domestic animals, or to forcibly restrain their movement after surgery, resulting in a high risk for infection and pain following the procedure. Removing mares’ ovaries will also cause serious behavioral changes, making this an inappropriate management tool for wild herds. 

The groups are asking BLM to respond to its request by July 28 and, if denied access to observe and record the procedures, will file a suit to protect their First Amendment rights. They are also plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the BLM over its plans to convert a wild free-roaming horse population in the Saylor Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) in Idaho into a non-reproducing herd by sterilizing every mare and stallion living there. 

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign is a national wild horse advocacy organization whose grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. Cloud is the subject of Foundation founder Ginger Kathrens' groundbreaking PBS/Nature documentaries.

More information:

AWHPC/TCF First Amendment Demand Letter

Video Documentation of Ovariectomy on Wild Burros

AWHPC Comments/Complaints

The Cloud Foundation Comments 

Comments of Dr. Don Moore, Veterinarian