Wild horses - Let's resolve to find better solutions this year

Jan. 6, 2017 - Change brings both fear and opportunity.

Advocates for wild horses are understandably concerned as we enter a new year with new leaders in Washington, D.C.

What will these changes bring?

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management ended 2016 admitting that its system of rounding up and removing horse from federal land is a failure. It  doesn't control population growth. It's inhumane. And it's a drain on taxpayers.

By its own admission, the BLM is facing a Billion Dollar Crisis due to the costs of rounding up, removing and stockpiling wild horses. And, since roundups and removals only encourage herds to reproduce more, there's no end in sight.

When the BLM's own advisory board suggested killing thousands of horses now in federal holding in order to make room for more, public outcry was swift, loud and effective. BLM leadership couldn't move fast enough to distance itself from this horrific idea, vowing that no horses would be killed.

Yet advocates rightfully fear that the idea may re-surface. Or that laws that currently protect wild horses from being exported for slaughter will be overturned. If so, the suggestions won't be any more popular with the American public than the one proposed by the BLM's Advisory Board.

So, why continue to waste time, horses' lives and taxpayer money?Wouldn't it be better to pursue approaches that are affordable, safe, effective and humane?

Fertility researchers say the U.S. government could be making much greater use of the PZP fertility control vaccine in order to humanely manage wild horses on the range. Dozens of wild horse advocacy groups and the Humane Society of the United States agree, as do the more than 51,000 Americans who have signed this petition, launched by the producers of the award-winning documentary, "Roaming Wild."

PZP is produced, at cost, by the non-profit Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont., and has a decades-long track record of success. The vaccine works and doesn't harm horses. In many areas, the center has trained volunteers to administer the vaccine, which helps keep costs down.

Consider: Taxpayers currently spend $49,000 on each mustang that is removed from the range and not adopted. Meanwhile, PZP costs about $27 per darted horse per year.

An economic study published in Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine said BLM could save $8 million over 12 years by using PZP in one herd management area alone. There are nearly 200 herd management areas in the United States. Spread across them, increased use of PZP could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. And, unlike roundups and removals, the vaccine would actually help bring horse populations under control.

This is a time to engage, pay attention and communicate with our leaders - local, state and national. Let them know that better solutions exist.

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