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BLM fails to provide needed shade for warehoused horses
June 27, 2013

Despite 100 degree temperatures, the Federal Bureau of Land Management is refusing to provide shade or sprinklers for nearly two thousand warehoused wild horses and burros at its Palomino Valley holding facility north of Reno, Nevada. Native Wild Horse Protection, a S.F. based organization, contacted an equine expert Dr. Lester Friedlander, a former USDA veterinarian who is calling the situation “critical” and warns the animals are at serious risk of dying from heat related deaths.  <

For several weeks, Native Wild Horse Protection and animal welfare supporters have been calling on the BLM to address the lack of shade for the animals, including many young foals, who cannot escape the relentless sun and heat.  Unlike their native wild habitat, they are enclosed on barren ground – there is no grass to lay on, nor are there any trees or bushes for shelter from the searing sun and high temperatures. Study of impact of full sun upon surface temperature indicates in 104 degrees, barren ground temperatures will reach 146 degrees in a matter of minutes. Despite  numerous calls, James Beck, director of the facility, has not responded to Native Wild Horse Protection nor their supporters, who have offered to donate materials or pay for the construction of an overhead shaded shelter for the animals.   Instead, BLM spokeswoman Debbie Collins  issued a statement claiming the animals are in no danger from the heat, because “They are wild and used to having no shelter on the range”. Collins went on to say, “A built shelter could collapse and harm the animals”.  This is in direct opposition to the BLM’s own requirement that in order to adopt one of the horses or burros, a person must provide proof they have a shelter from the elements available for the animals.

Dr. Lester Friedlander, former Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer with the USDA, and veterinarian for the NY State Horse Racing and Wagering Board, says conditions at the Palomino Valley Center call for “emergency action” by the Federal government to ensure the safety of the animals.  He says if the horses and burros are not properly protected from the heat and sun,  “countless numbers will be lost to disease, infections and heat-related deaths.”

Native Wild Horse Protection member and supporter Coleen Denson, a Nevada horse advocate, visited the Palomino Valley facility in early June.  Several of her photos are attached, showing the conditions the animals live in.  While there, she witnessed moldy hay sitting on the ground. She was told by a facility employee that the animals “knew better” and would  “eat around” the mold.   Dr. Friedlander disagrees: “Eating hay contaminated with mold will surely sicken the horses and burros,” he says, “and if not treated on a timely basis they will succumb to an excruciating death. The spores of the mold will migrate thru the animal and get lodged in the lungs causing them to barely breathe normally. 

Last year, Palomino Valley reported that 241 horses and foals died at their facility between 2010 and 2012.  However, the Nevada By-Product rendering facility reported that they received 577 horses from Palomino Valley, not 241 – a startling difference in reporting the BLM has yet to be explained.  This lack of transparency has horse advocates concerned that these deaths, coupled with the BLM’s failure to comply with even their own basic humane standards of care, is the result of an agency that is willing to let the animals die rather than care for them adequately.

On June 5th, the National Academy of Sciences issued a scathing indictment of  the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program, concluding that the warehousing of the animals was detrimental to their well-being and calling for sweeping reform of the program.  One of the report‘s recommendations was to let the horses and burros  stay in their own environment as was mandated by Congress in 1971 with the “Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act”. That law made it a crime for anyone to harass or kill feral horses or burros on Federal land, required the departments of the Interior and Agriculture to protect the animals, required studies of the animals’ habits and habitats, and permitted public land to be set aside for their use.  However today, due to countless roundups, there are nearly fifty-thousand horses in government holding facilities, compared to fifteen thousand wild horses and burros still living in the wild.

On June 20th, Congressman Grijalva obtained support of 29 constituents and sent a letter to new Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell for her immediate address and change to set BLM’s wild horse & burro management program onto a sustainable path by making it more humane and cost effective. 

With temperatures forecast to once again top 100 degrees in the Reno area next week, animal welfare supporters and organizations are calling on the BLM to do as they are mandated by law and to protect ‘America’s horses’ by providing shelter and/or sprinklers for the horses at the Palomino Valley facility and to immediately remove contaminated, moldy hay from their enclosures. 

Yesterday, Coleen Denson concerned about this weekend’s forecasted 105 degree temperatures, contacted the Palomino Valley Center and was curtly informed the facility will be closed and was not provided an answer as to whether or not any BLM personnel would be present to ensure needed water for the horses be provided.

Native Wild Horse Protection, supporters, concerned citizens and animal welfare advocates request the Bureau of Land Management, Palomino Valley Center to immediately provide needed shade and humane care for horses warehoused within, or to open the gates and return these native wild horses and burros to the wild, where they belong by law and are allowed to live out their lives as the Wild Horse & Burro Protection Act of 1971 intended.<


Jetara Séhart, Executive Director, Native Wild Horse Protection


“Native Wild Horse” members and supporters:

Monika Courtney, Independent Wild Horse Advocate

Coleen Denson, Photographer, Concerned Citizen

Debbie Catalina, Media Liason, Animal Welfare Advocate

Patty Bumgarner, Palomino Valley Wild Horse Advocate, Photographer

Joanne Cronan-Hamoy, Development Director/Author-Save America’s Wild Horses National Education Youth Campaign

Dr. Lester Friedlander, BA, DVM