Euthanasia of Wild Horses Still on the Table


BLM MustangsThe Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, released a report on November 10 that provides recommendations to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding its Wild Horse and Burro Program. The report, titled “Bureau of Land Management: Effective Long-Term Options Needed to Manage Unadoptable Wild Horses,” recognizes that the BLM does not have the budget to manage the horses that have been rounded up and remain unwanted. “The number of animals removed from the range is far greater than the number adopted or sold, which has resulted in the need for increased short-term and long-term holding,” the report says.

Since 2001, over 74,000 animals have been removed from the range, while only about 46,400 have been adopted or sold. “Thirty-six percent fewer animals were adopted in 2007 than compared to the average adoption rates in the 1990s. As of June 2008, BLM was holding 30,088 animals in holding facilities, up from 9,807 in 2001,” the report says.

The report summarizes that the long-term sustainability of the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program depends on the resolution of two significant challenges: “(1) If not controlled, off-the-range holding costs will continue to overwhelm the program. The percentage of the program’s direct costs for holding animals off the range increased from $7 million in 2000 (46 percent) to $21 million in 2007 (67 percent). In 2008, these costs could account for 74 percent of the program’s budget. (2) BLM has limited options for dealing with unadoptable animals. The act [Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, as amended] provides that unadopted excess animals shall be humanely destroyed or, under certain circumstances, sold without limitation. However, BLM only manages these animals through sales with limitations. BLM is concerned about the possible reaction to the destruction of healthy animals.”

The report makes several recommendations, including instituting clearer guidelines for establishing appropriate management levels of horses on public lands and developing cost-effective alternatives to the process of caring for wild horses removed from the range in long-term holding facilities and to seek the legislative changes that may be necessary to implement those alternatives.

One of those alternatives relates to how the BLM complies with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act that was passed in 1971 to protect wild horses and burros. While the Act was designed to protect horses, it hangs in limbo after Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) attached a highly controversial rider to a massive appropriations bill in 2004 that eliminated the prohibition on killing wild horses and burros.

This fall the BLM announced it was considering euthanizing excess wild horses due to budget constraints. The GAO report recommendations state that the BLM should discuss with Congress how best to comply with the Act or amend it so that the BLM would be able to comply. Additionally, the report states that the BLM “should inform Congress of its concerns with (1) the Act’s requirement for the humane destruction of excess animals and (2) the possible slaughter of healthy horses if excess animals are sold without limitation, under certain circumstances, as the Act requires.”

To read the complete GAO report, visit

Read about Mustang adoption here.


  1. It’s really sad how people would want to ethuanize living, animals. That’s like slaughtering a dog, just because it’s homeless. No. Horses are breathing animals too. I support letting them live their lives.

  2. It is truly sad when such beauitful animals are destroyed just because the government thinks that that is the best sollution. I really hope something changes so that these horses can be saved from a pointless slaughter.

  3. I can not agree with this. My filly, Gracie, was born a wild horse on a range in Montana. What if she has been euthanized? I can’t bear the thought. So many good horses are out there and they need a good home. Give them a chance! Killing them, even if it is peacefull and harmless, is not the answer. It’s like killing a piece of American history.

  4. That is soooo wrong!!! Don’t any of these people have any other ideas other than killing perfectly healthy horses!!!!!! I could understand if they were ill and it was kind to put them out of there misery but putting healthy horses down is just plain wrong!!!!

  5. Leave the horses alone. You might think this is harsh but its true. If a horse is old, or disfigured and it can’t run for predators its going to die. Its a natural cycle. What happened when we weren’t around to take care of them.

  6. I hope they find another way other than euthanasia. I think euthanasia should be used for horses that are suffering and need to be put out of their misery, but not for this! If they start this, someday there could be no wild horses left!

  7. OMG I LOVE Wild Horses, and I do NOT think that putting them down is nessicary! Let them roam free and wild, as they have been for thousands of years. I love them, they are precious.

  8. The wild horses have already shrunk in numbers considerably. It’s their land just as much as ours. No euthanasia except for unhealthy horses.

  9. It isn’t the horses fault that we took over their normal grazing lands. Why should they be punished for the things we have done to them? They shouldn’t be euthanized for our mistakes. Leave them alone. The only ones who should be euthanized are the ones who will die and are in pain.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here