Washington, DC -Late yesterday, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national coalition, fired off a letter to the White House and top officials of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Wild Horse and Burro Program urging immediate cancellation of a dangerous experiment the agency plans for herds of horses living in Wyoming’s North Lander Complex.
In a strongly worded letter, AWHPC attorney Katherine Meyer, of the noted public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, took issue with the BLM’s plan to administer a controversial experimental fertility-control vaccine, known as SpayVac, to 60 wild mares (female horses) during a roundup scheduled to begin next month.
“The BLM is proceeding with a dangerous experiment on wild Wyoming mares, subjecting them to an unproven fertility drug with possible deleterious side effects and potential irreversibility,” said Patricia M. Fazio, Ph.D. of Cody Wyoming, who conducted an expert assessment of the existing research on SpayVac for AWHPC.
AWHPC is urging BLM to scrap the proposed study in favor of using the PZP fertility control vaccine, which has proven safe and effective over decades of research and use in the field.
In the letter sent on behalf of AWHPC, Meyer warned that limited research has been conducted on SpayVac use in horses, but the research data available indicates that SpayVac causes mares to experience persistent uterine edema, which may make them vulnerable to infections; abnormal estrus cycles; ovarian changes; and prolonged, and possibly permanent, infertility after just one shot.
Due to the lack of data on the safety and efficacy of SpayVac, the BLM itself began a 5-year study of the drug on captive horses at its Pauls Valley (Oklahoma) holding facility. The agency also asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review SpayVac and other fertility control options as part of its overall review of the federal wild horse and burro program.
On May 3, 2012, the NAS hosted a public presentation on SpayVac. One participant, Dr. Irwin Liu, the NAS panel’s consultant on equine reproductive biology and physiology, noted that a published research paper indicated 100% of the 12 mares studied had excessive edema three years after the SpayVac drug had been administered. He warned that further research into the side effects and reversibility of SpayVac is needed.
AWHPC believes that the BLM should not proceed with a field trial of SpayVac, until the Pauls Valley pen trial, still 2.5 years from completion, is concluded.
“The willingness of BLM to subject wild horses to a potentially dangerous experiment is indicative of this agency’s overall attitude toward the animals it is supposed to protect,” said Deniz Bolbol, AWHPC Communications Director. “The agency is inoculating wild mares with a drug that has been shown to have potentially serious side effects, then sending them back to the wild, in a vast and rugged habitat that will make it impossible to conduct follow up studies or deliver treatment if needed.”
The agency’s sale of thousands of wild horses to a known horse slaughterer was recently exposed. AWHPC has also been forced to repeatedly file lawsuits to stop the BLM from sterilizing wild horses. In a Wyoming lawsuit, AWHPC prevented the BLM from converting two wild free roaming horse populations to herds of castrated stallions. In Nevada, an AWHPC lawsuit stopped the agency from castrating hundreds of wild free roaming stallions and from “zeroing out” (eradicating all horses from) a designated Herd Area.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.