BLM report to Congress on wild horses and burros falls short on fertility control

BLM report to Congress on wild horses and burros falls short on fertility control

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

The BLM plan appears to focus on large-scale gathers instead of safe, proven and humane fertility control methods. Photo by Grace Kahler/The HSUS

America’s wild horses and burros are in crisis and unless the Bureau of Land Management revamps its program to manage these animals in a non-lethal and sustainable manner, as Congress has directed it to do, the gridlock surrounding the program will continue to prevent progress. Recently, BLM released a report to Congress on how it plans to revamp the program, and while the agency took a step in the right direction by committing to some increased use of fertility control tools, the report fell short of the changes truly needed to create a humane wild horse and burro program.

The BLM’s report does include a nod to increasing the agency’s use of fertility control tools, but it seems to indicate that the agency will only use these tools once populations are near the agency’s target levels—a goal that has to be reached through removals and one that BLM has never been able to reach. While the report indicates that BLM plans to administer at least 3,000 fertility control vaccines to mares annually, and commits $21 million to fertility control in coming years, there is no guarantee that this commitment would be implemented on a large scale and used on a continuing basis to manage wild horses now, let alone in perpetuity. With over 88,000 wild horses and burros on BLM land, a plan for 3,000 treatments is a drop in the bucket to manage wild horse populations. Additionally, there is no commitment from the agency to use widely accepted, humane and reversible fertility control tools.

Instead, the plan appears to focus on large-scale gathers, as BLM always has done, instead of the implementation of safe, proven and humane fertility control methods, as the agency should. It’s these innovative methods that a coalition of diverse stakeholders, including the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, have championed again and again in discussions with the agency and in public statements.

We appreciate the agency’s desire to correct course on its management of wild horses and burros on our western public lands after decades of pressure. But the agency needs to prioritize implementation of fertility control on a large scale to reduce its reliance on taking horses off the range and putting them into government holding facilities. They simply cannot continue their stated path of using fertility control only when enough horses have been removed for the numbers to be near desired levels. Stabilization and slowing population growth is the path to long-term solutions—that means using fertility control now, and making it the central focus of the wild horse and burro program. This approach would break the cycle of rounding up and warehousing horses as the primary means of lowering population.

The comprehensive proposal our coalition has put forward has gained traction with lawmakers across the political spectrum, including among those who just a few years ago were arguing for lethal control. It relies on safe, humane and proven on-range fertility control methods at great scale, and importantly, it takes surgical sterilization off the table. Instead, it would advance scaled-up, on-range fertility control initiatives.

BLM continues to call for more research into sterilization of mares. While it has shifted some of its focus to chemical sterilization of mares, which is less invasive and potentially has less complications than surgical sterilization of mares, it still does not take off the table money going toward surgical sterilization research—an approach we and other stakeholders unequivocally oppose. These procedures are extremely invasive and present a host of potential complications for the animal, including hemorrhage, shock, tissue damage and even death. Here too, we believe the agency could make better use of its limited resources by focusing on safe and humane fertility control tools already available for use. The fact of the matter is that currently there are no sterilization techniques for wild mares that are proven safe and humane, and as such, they should not be used to manage these animals.

This report simply doesn’t cut it, and we will be bringing hard pressure on BLM and other stakeholders to support aggressive implementation of humane contraception strategies. We’re going to press Congress to do the same, because its oversight and reinforcement of intelligent strategies is essential to overcoming the agency’s historical tendencies to look for the quick fix of round-ups.

In addition, we must continue our efforts to secure passage of the SAFE Act (H.R. 961/S. 2006), to prevent the horse slaughter industry from reestablishing itself in the United States and ban the export of American horses for slaughter elsewhere. Public health considerations alone make it plain that horses don’t belong on the menu. But the passage of this bill would also foreclose on the chance that America’s wild horses would end up in the slaughter pipeline, as they often have in the past.

Congressional leaders have made it clear that they want to see the challenge of managing wild horse and burro populations addressed humanely, effectively and comprehensively, to ensure the health of their herds while satisfying political and other demands for their management. To do that, we’re going to have to confront and remove any remaining obstructions and barriers to the expanded use of contraception. We will do that and more in our efforts to save America’s wild horses and burros and to ensure their future on our western ranges.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Published at Mon, 11 May 2020 21:24:56 +0000

Dogs shot, starved and neglected: HSUS’s eighth Horrible Hundred report delves into the cruel world of puppy mills

For at least four years in a row Cedar Ridge Australians has been found with poor conditions and multiple dogs in obvious need of veterinary care. The Missouri attorney general is taking the dealer, Marlisa McAlmond, to court. Photo by the Missouri Department of Agriculture

Last year, a state inspector visiting Wendy Pets, a puppy mill in Seneca, Kansas, found 24 dogs had simply disappeared from the facility. When asked, a representative told the inspector he had “euthanized” the dogs by shooting them. Although he had been breeding dogs for years, he claimed “he wasn’t aware” he wasn’t allowed to destroy his dogs this way.

In Sturgeon, Missouri, a state inspector found the owner of TLC Kennels had left his dogs out in the cold with only blue barrels for shelter or on dangerous wire flooring.

And at Stonehenge Kennel in West Point, Iowa, a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector found more injured dogs at a kennel with a long history of violations, making a total of almost 50 dogs found ill or injured on the property since 2015.

Although state inspectors cited the owners of Wendy Pets and TLC Kennels, none of the three mills were fined by the USDA, nor were their licenses revoked. That means all three of them can continue to sell to pet stores across the country.

These cases, as sad and shocking as they are, are just a few examples of the mistreatment animals continue to endure in these and other puppy mills that appear in our latest Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy dealers and breeders in the United States.

From starving dogs to animals with gaping, untreated wounds, to dogs who died “suddenly” of untreated illnesses, the report, sourced from USDA and state inspection reports, offers a look into a sordid and intensely abusive world where animals are treated as nothing more than profit-making commodities, where they are not given the most basic needs like adequate food and water, and where they are often disposed of cruelly once they have outlived their purpose.

We have been bringing you this report for eight years now, but the urgency to get it out has become even greater under the Trump administration because increasingly we cannot count on the USDA, which is supposed to ensure that animals do not suffer in businesses like puppy mills, to do its job. As I’ve been telling you on this blog, the agency tasked with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act has drastically scaled down inspections of businesses like puppy mills in recent years.

Here are some other significant findings in our 2020 Horrible Hundred report:

  1. For the eighth year in a row, Missouri had more problem dealers on the list than any other state. Altogether there are 30 dealers from the state on our list, but the state’s attorney general is currently taking some of them to court. One of these, a dealer named Cory Mincey, dodged 35 state inspections and was repeatedly found with sickly and gaunt dogs. Another, Marlisa McAlmond, had dogs who were severely emaciated with their ribs and spines showing.

  2. Other states with multiple dealers in the report include Ohio with nine, Kansas and Wisconsin with eight each, Georgia with seven, Pennsylvania with six, and Indiana and Iowa with five each.

  3. Almost one-third of the breeders in the report claimed some affiliation with the American Kennel Club, a dog registry that claims to support quality care for dogs, but actually fights laws designed to protect them.

  4. More than half of the breeders in the report are USDA-licensed, which means they can legally sell to pet stores or online, sight-unseen. The other half are either state-licensed, or appear to be unlicensed.

  5. Some of the dealers with egregious violations on their state records have not been cited for a single USDA violation in the same years that state inspectors have flagged horrible problems at these mills.

  6. Several of the puppy mills in our report have sold dogs to Petland, the nation’s largest puppy-selling chain, which has been the subject of eight HSUS investigations for the mistreatment of the animals in their care.

The coronavirus pandemic has created an even more dire situation for dogs trapped in puppy mills. In late March, the USDA sent a notice to all licensees and registrants informing them that the agency would be “limiting routine inspections” due to the pandemic. If licensees do not want to participate in any inspection, they can simply tell their inspector to “come back another time.” This pause in routine inspections, with no specific end date, leaves tens of thousands of dogs who are already suffering in puppy mills at even greater risk. Many state agencies have had to pause routine kennel visits as well.

Many puppy mills also operate under the radar or in states with no licensing and inspection laws, which means animals there are never seen by an inspector and the breeder is never held accountable.

That’s why we urgently need strong state laws for inspections of commercial dog breeders and to end the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores as well as online. Three states—California, Maryland and Maine— and more than 350 localities already have laws that prohibit the sales of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. We are working in other states to pass similar laws.

We are also calling on Congress to pass legislation including the Puppy Protection Act that would upgrade standards of care for dogs, and the WOOF Act that would make it harder for USDA-licensed breeders and exhibitors with severe and multiple Animal Welfare Act violations to get new licenses until they are in compliance. Further, we are supporting the Providing Responsible Emergency Plans for Animals at Risk of Emerging Disasters (PREPARED) Act that would require all facilities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act, including puppy mills, to have emergency response plans for the animals in their care when disaster strikes.

But as consumers, you have the greatest power to stop the problem of puppy mills. If you are looking to bring a companion animal home, look to reputable rescue groups or animal shelters, which are using innovative ways during the pandemic to ensure animals in their care are placed in loving adoptive or foster homes. Or seek out a small-scale responsible breeder who treats their animals like part of the family. Internet sellers and pet stores are more likely than not to source their animals from puppy mills, and the only way we can root out this problem for good is for each one of us to refuse to support the cruelty with our dollars.


Categories

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

Published at Mon, 11 May 2020 15:28:54 +0000

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