Internal Reports Document Widespread Animal Welfare Violations at Federal Wild Horse Holding Facilities Across West

 Leading Wild Horse Advocacy Organization calls for Emergency Halt to Roundup Operations

Cañon City, Colorado (June 1, 2022) — In the wake of 145 wild horse deaths at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Cañon City Off-Range Corral, the American Wild Horse Campaign, is calling for an emergency halt to all federal wild horse and burro roundups citing recently released internal assessments documenting widespread animal welfare violations that place thousands of federally-protected wild horses and burros at risk of disease, injury, and death.

The internal assessments, performed to ensure compliance with the BLM’s Comprehensive Animal Welfare Program (CAWP), demonstrate that improper care of these animals extends well beyond the Cañon City and Wheatland Off-Range Corrals. Problems documented at multiple holding facilities include understaffing, lack of timely vaccination of captured horses brought into confinement, inaccurate and inadequate recordkeeping, inadequate access to hay for all horses, and issues related to construction and maintenance.

To date, the BLM has evaluated eight of its 28 off-range holding facilities. The BLM released internal assessments for the Cañon City (Colo.) Off-Range Corral as well as the Wheatland (Wyo.) Off-Range Corral, both of which are experiencing disease outbreaks. Other facilities assessed include the Bruneau (Idaho), Boise (Idaho), Northern Nevada Correctional Center (Nev.), Palomino Valley Center (Nev.), Indian Lakes (Nev.), and Burns (Ore.) Off-Range Holding Corrals.

“The internal assessments show widespread problems that are creating an animal welfare crisis at these taxpayer-funded holding facilities where 60,000 wild horses and burros are confined. The system is fundamentally broken and simply cannot safely hold the thousands of additional wild horses that the BLM intends to capture this year." Said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. "The American Wild Horse Campaign joins Governor Jared Polis in calling for a pause to wild horse roundups in Colorado and believes that pause should be expanded to other western states like Wyoming. Wild horses are safest in the wild, and the BLM must refocus efforts on humane, on-range management using birth control instead of rounding up more wild horses and piling them into holding facilities." 

The most serious animal welfare violations cited in the CAWP assessments include the following:

  • Failure to freeze mark (BLM identification brands) and conduct Equine Infectious Anemia testing within 30 days of arrival at the facility, as required by BLM policy. 
  • Failure to timely vaccinate and booster wild horses against preventable diseases that can rapidly spread in conditions of intensive confinement.
  • Inadequate staffing. 
  • Poor upkeep and maintenance or construction issues at the facilities. 
  • Inadequate access to hay for all equines confined.
  • Horses in poor body condition. Wheatland’s report noted, “The number of wild horses in BCS [Body Condition Score 3] was high.” According to the agency’s own care guide for newly adopted animals, wild horses should maintain a BCS of 4-6 to be considered in good weight. An animal in BCS 3 is considered thin and requires additional supportive care.
  • Inaccurate and out-of-date record-keeping.

Across all states where the BLM actively rounds up horses and burros, AWHC is advocating for the implementation of a robust, scientifically proven, birth control vaccine program, minimizing the need for inhumane helicopter roundups and confined holding facilities. The organization implements the world's largest wild horse birth control vaccine program and is engaging stakeholders to collaborate with the BLM and implement alternative solutions to roundups.

About the American Wild Horse Campaign

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.