On Tuesday morning, May 14, NBC’s Today Show featured a segment about America’s Wild Horse and Burro population. Unfortunately, the piece did not truly reflect all sides of the issue, and failed to address the effort that the Bureau of Land Management continues to exert in order to ensure that these animals are treated humanely with imposed standards based on expert research and sound science, not an emotional attachment and strategically framed video editing. In keeping with its mission of “Better Horse Care through Research and Education,” the Rutgers Equine Science Center felt the need to respond to this media segment. The Equine Science Center’s own Dr. Sarah Ralston participated in a two year academic assessment of equine welfare during the gather process of the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program. In 2010, the American Horse Protection Association in cooperation with the BLM, established an Independent Designated Observer Pilot Program (IDOPP). The IO program provided a credible welfare assessment of the handling and care of wild horses during BLM gather activities on Herd Management Areas, in part due to the IO’s academic background, knowledge of the issues, and lack of formal affiliation with the BLM. The practical attributes of their recommendations to the mission and goals of the BLM program and the utilization of an objective checklist by the IO resulted in the creation of non-biased, animal welfare recommendations that could be implemented by the BLM and contractors.
Links to the document prepared by the IOs and other pertinent material regarding the Wild Horse and Burro Program can be found here:
BLM Strengthens Wild Horse and Burro Policies to Ensure Humane Treatment of Animals, Greater Transparency
Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Internal and External Communicating and Reporting
Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Management by Incident Command System
Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy