Congress Bans Forest Service from Selling Wild Horses from Slaughter

New Law Protects Wild Horses in California’s Modoc National Forest and Across the West

WASHINGTON, DC (December 19, 2019)... Today, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2020 “minibus” spending bill that prohibits the U.S. Forest Service from destroying healthy wild horses and burros and selling them for slaughter.

Previously, Congress prohibited the BLM from lethal management of wild horses and burros, but the ban did not extend to the Forest Service, which manages a much smaller but still significant number of federally protected wild horses and burros in the West. 

The expanded prohibition is a direct response to the Forest Service’s plan, unveiled in 2018, to sell California wild horses captured from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in the Modoc National Forest without limitation on slaughter. 

The plan drew sharp opposition from the public California political leaders, including  U.S. Senator Dianne FeinsteinAttorney General Xavier Becerra, and Assemblyman Todd Gloria and dozens of his legislative colleagues, and sparked the passage of state legislation to better protect California horses from slaughter.

“We’re pleased that Congress has listened to the wishes of the vast majority of Americans who want our iconic wild horses and burros protected from slaughter,”  said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “Californians are lucky to have compassionate and dedicated leaders like Senator Feinstein and Assemblymember Gloria whose strong advocacy for humane treatment of horses resulted in this important new protection.” 

The minibus passed this week by the Senate and House and sent to the President’s desk for signature, states: 

Section 419 (e) Amounts appropriated by this Act shall not be available for—  (1) the destruction of any healthy, unadopted, and wild horse or burro under the jurisdiction of the Secretary concerned (including a contractor); or (2) the sale of a wild horse or burro that results in the destruction of the wild horse or burro for processing into a commercial product.  [Under this section, “the Secretary” is defined as the Secretary of the Interior, with respect to land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, or the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to land administered by the Forest Service

The language was requested by Senator Feinstein, U.S. Reps. Raul Grijalva and Dina Titus, as well as by 64 other members of Congress and 22 members of the California State Legislature.

The Devil’s Garden wild horse population is the largest and most significant herd in California. In October 2018, the U.S. Forest Service rounded up 900 of these mustangs and threatened to  sell many of them without limitation on slaughter. The American Wild Horse Campaign joined by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit to block the Forest Service from proceeding with its plan to sell federally-protected wild horses for slaughter. At the same time, Assemblymember Gloria introduced legislation to increase protections for domestic and wild horses in California, a state where the slaughter of horses for human consumption is a felony. 

This fall, the Forest Service rounded up an additional 500 wild horses from the Forest. The new spending bill protects these horses from being killed outright or sold for slaughter. AWHC continues to advocate for humane management of the Devil’s Garden horses with fertility control as an alternative to traumatic and costly helicopter roundups. 

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.