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Animal Protection Groups Applaud Reps. Rahall and Whitfield for Defending America's Wild Horses

Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States, working collectively with 10 other wild horse and burro advocacy groups with a combined membership totaling 10 million, is urging Congress to act quickly to enact legislation introduced yesterday by Representatives Nick J. Rahall (D-WV) and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) to restore a federal prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros. Congressmen Rahall and Whitfield introduced H.R. 297 in response to a last minute amendment to the omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress late last year that weakens federal law intended to prevent wild horses from being sold for slaughter.

Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) introduced the amendment, which passed with no hearing or debate as part of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill and has been heavily criticized by wild horse advocates and animal protection organizations. It reversed longstanding federal policy of protecting wild horses from being sold at auction and subsequently shipped to slaughter plants.

Protection for wild horses in the United States was originally mandated under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act in response to the shootings of hundreds of thousands of horses and burros and the slaughter of horses for pet food and human consumption in Europe.

"A public outcry has again begun across the United States over the change in law that now allows the commercial sale and slaughter of these animals," said Rahall. "We need to act before it is too late for thousands of these animals."

In a related development, several groups sent a letter today to the Department of Interior that urges the Bureau of Land Management to develop, offer for public comment, and administer new regulations to implement the legislation. For example, the Burns amendment requires the BLM to determine:

• How it will evaluate whether a wild horse is "more than ten years of age."

• When a horse has been "offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least three times"

• How to ensure that horses are held and transported in a healthy and humane manner.

• When "all excess animals offered for sale are sold."

• How to incorporate the public in discovering sale options that avoid any wild horses being slaughtered.

• Whether BLM must destroy wild horses and burros that are removed from rangelands.

Implementation of the Burns amendment will likely lead to the slaughter of thousands of wild horses, but the ambiguous language of the amendment requires that the agency grapple with how to appropriately interpret and implement the law. The HSUS urges the BLM to carefully consider regulatory language and to invite thorough public comment before moving forward with a death sentence for these majestic animals. The best hope for wild horses and burros is for Congress to overturn the Burns rider altogether and make this regulatory process unnecessary. "We are very grateful to Representatives Rahall and Whitfield for taking this important step to protect America's horses," said Nancy Perry, HSUS vice president for government affairs "The people have made their views clear on this issue—let the horses run free."

The groups working collectively on the letter to BLM include the American Horse Defense Fund, the American Horse Protection Association, American Humane, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, KBR Horse Net, Return To Freedom, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, and the Wild Horse and Burro Freedom Alliance.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than 8.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals and equine protection, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research and farm animals and sustainable agriculture. The HSUS protects all animals through legislation, litigation, investigation, education, advocacy and fieldwork. The non-profit organization is based in Washington, DC and has 10 regional offices across the country. On the web at