Horse Health

Senators Urge BLM to Abandon Plan to Spay Mustang Mares

by as posted on The Horse

The plan would surgically sterilize mares in Oregon’s Warm Springs Herd Management Area

8 month old fillies at BLM’s Hines, Oregon holding facility…waiting for the “experiments” to begin (2016)~ photo by R.T. Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A group of U.S. senators has asked Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt to scrap a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan to surgically sterilize mustang mares to control herd growth at the Warm Springs Horse Management Area (HMA) in Oregon.

Located on 474,547 acres 20 miles southwest of Burns, Oregon, the BLM’s estimated appropriate management level (AML) for the Warm Springs HMA is between 96 and 178 wild horses. Currently an estimated 738 mustangs reside there. The BLM would perform the procedure on about 100 of the Warm Springs HMA mares.

The controversial spay plan (the procedure is known as ovariectomy via colpotomy) involves the manual insertion of a metal rod to locate and remove a mare’s ovaries. Critics of the procedure maintain that it can cause excessive bleeding and even death. The latest plan is the agency’s most recent attempt to use the surgical procedure to permanently sterilize mares to control herd growth. In 2018 the plan was put on hold when a federal judge issued a temporary order to halt it.

In their July 17 letter Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ), Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Kamala Harris (D-California), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Christopher Coons (D-Delaware), and Dianne Feinstein (D-California) asked Bernhardt to abandon the spay plan on grounds that it threatens the mustangs’ welfare and is contrary to public opinion.

“We urge the BLM to drop this controversial plan and instead actively peruse humane and scientifically supported fertility control projects such as the porcine zona pellucida (fertility) vaccine (PZP) that enjoy broad support and pose  significantly less risk of harm to the federally protected wild horses,” the letter said. “At a minimum, independent veterinary and welfare oversight is necessary if this project is to move forward.”

No one from the BLM was available to comment on the letter.

Joanna Grossman, PhD, equine program manager for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) praised the senators for asking the BLM to nix the plan.

“We appreciate their leadership in urging the BLM to put a permanent end to this misguided research proposal and focus instead on implementing effective and humane fertility control options to manage our nation’s wild horses,” Grossman said.

But not all oppose the spay plan. Some veterinarians have frequently surgically spayed mares for medical and behavioral reasons, said Tom Lenz, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACT, who serves on the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Committee but spoke to The Horse on his own behalf.

He believes herd population control is so critical to the welfare of wild herds that the BLM must use every tool available to achieve it.

“Spaying should be part of a number of solutions to herd population control,” Lenz said.

The plan is slated to be implemented later this year.

8 replies »

  1. I’m curious – what veterinarians – in particular – “frequently surgically spayed mares for medical and behavioral reasons”? I would like to see their names in print – wouldnt you? I mean if “dr” Lenz knows of these veterinarians who agree with him – who are they – pray tell! Because the ones who are against this procedure(unless an emergency) are very vocal & outspoken – they give their names!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • A wealthy lady I knew had her beloved riding mare surgically spayed for “behavioral” reasons, by the best vets in our state, with the best care money could buy, and that mare died as a result. She never wanted another horse and abandoned horses altogether from losing this mare to an elective surgery.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have heard of veterinarians spaying mares, but these are domestic mares, kept in a controlled environment, given pain medication and constant care and it’s often done because of some kind of medical condition that spaying can help alleviate. And these types of procedures are done by experience, caring veterinarians. This is the exact opposite of what these wild mares will be put through, and why, in the past, many have died. And in fact, many veterinarians will agree that even in domestic horses and a controlled environment, it’s a risky procedure. Leon Pielstick, who performs these barbaric surgeries for the BLM, is nothing more than a butcher. These mares will be given no pain meds, no aftercare. The BLM doesn’t care if these wild horses suffer and die from this torture. Just one less wild horse to have to feed. This is sickening and wrong, no matter how you look at it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Spaying is the least humane and highest cost possible “tool” imaginable, which violates both the letter and intent of the 1971 law. It is in no way “minimal” or “feasible” and provides no justifiable or measurable public good. My Senators are not listed so will hear from me, again.

    And did the Senators really mean “actively peruse” or “pursue?” Strange word choice.

    Liked by 1 person


    FoA files lawsuit against BLM for its attempt wipe out Oregon’s wild horses

    Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its decision to not return 779 of the wild horses it rounded up from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area (HMA) in Oregon last October. Adding insult to injury, the BLM in the decision admitted that 66 wild horses were “not excess” but granted itself discretion to imprison those horses indefinitely and set in motion a plan to administer fertility control or spay any mares who it decides to return.

    FoA is also challenging the decision’s new rule that virtually eliminates critical public participation in considerations about how to manage these and other wild horses in the future.
    “The latest decision leaves the Warm Spring wild horse herd well below any population size of effective breeding animals that BLM has recommended in past decisions,” said Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “Between the massive reduction in total population size and the decision to utilize birth control agents, like the pesticide PZP, the Warm Springs herd will no longer be a viable self-sustaining population as required by law. BLM will literally be managing this herd to extinction.”
    Speaking of breaking the law the new rule was issued in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). BLM failed to provide the public notice of the new rule before implementing it, nor did BLM solicit comments on the new rule as required by the APA. Finally, BLM failed to acknowledge or offer a reasonable explanation for the rule change, the lawsuit states.

    For decades now, the public has played an important role in assuring that (1) BLM is fully informed about the potential ramifications to the horses from its proposed management decisions and (2) that the courts act as a check to prevent bad decisions that do not pass legal muster from going into effect, the lawsuit states.

    “This overall decision may be BLM’s preferred model for wild horses moving forward, but it is downright criminal and morally reprehensible,” Harris said.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I am glad the senators are trying to stop this spaying procedure as it seems brutal, painful, dangerous and life threatening to our wild horses. I don’t know why the BLM even considers these drastic measures for controlling population as there is a much more sensible way of spaying which won’t injure these poor horses…..using the PZP vaccine…
    Leave our wild horses and burros alone, quit rounding them up and corralling them for long periods. What is the purpose of doing this? It costs money to feed them whereas if they are able to live on their home ranges, it costs nothing….. It is a shame that this continues to happen in the western states, these round-ups of different herds…. Why? So ranchers can put their livestock on these ranges???
    Really tired of hearing about so many wild horses and burros losing their homes(ranges) for no good reason…. What these animals (horses and burros) eat keeps these ranges cleared of certain vegetation; cattle and sheep do not eat the same vegetation, so one group doesn’t take food from the other….. so removing wild horses and burros from their home ranges makes no sense to me….
    Their removals have ended up in death for many stallions, mares and their foals, either in the round-up process or in their eventual sale to Canada and/or Mexico for slaughter. Many horses are shipped from Canada to Japan to be used for food….
    Most Americans are not even aware that this goes on day after day in the U.S….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with one of the comments. Please name the veterinarian and his qualifications. My vet said No Way would this be done unless it was some type of emergency! Even then he also said it would be done in a special hospital or clinic. I am going to thank the Senators for speaking up. However, as Congressional members who approve their budget, if they don’t abandon this procedure I would hold their funding back. It still doesn’t address the real question of the supposed over population. They haven’t looked at the number of Welfare Ranchers running cattle and livestock on land that was specifically set aside for the Wild Horses and Burros! We all must demand they fire the BLM when a new President is elected! And cancel all the land leases that are out there. The American people own the land NOT the Welfare Ranchers! But the Frankenstein experiments must be taken off the table!

    Liked by 1 person

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