Nonprofit Horse Rescue Group Challenges Inhumane Experimental Surgery
WASHINGTON, DC, September 25, 2018 – Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), a national nonprofit working to end the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue, advocacy, and education, has filed suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to stop the BLM’s experimental and invasive sterilization of wild mares. The lawsuit was filed yesterday in federal court in Washington D.C.
FRER’s suit contends the BLM’s intention to conduct surgical “experimentation” on wild mares in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Eastern Oregon, and then return them to the range without proper oversight, causes harm and suffering in violation of federal law. FRER’s lawsuit also says the plan represents a conflict of interest and is not in the best interests of wild horses, but rather in the BLM’s own best interest by reducing their management load without considering their mandate to properly manage the horses.
The sterilizations on wild mares proposed by the BLM was originally to be carried out in collaboration with Colorado State University, which has now withdrawn its involvement. Despite this vote of nonsupport, BLM has stated its intention to move forward, with unidentified veterinarians, to perform a dangerous procedure. BLM will be removing hundreds of horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area and identifying selected mares for their experiment. Veterinarians will then slice open the mare’s vagina while she is sedated, but awake and standing, and pulling her ovaries out — a risky and controversial surgical procedure even for tame mares under the best of conditions, let alone captive wild horses in a holding facility. Some of the mares will be in various stages of pregnancy. After a short recovery period, some of the sterilized mares will be returned to the range for monitoring.
“Performing unproven surgeries in a non-sterile environment violates the BLM’s congressional mandate to care for wild horses at a minimal feasible level, especially when responsible alternatives like the PZP contraceptive vaccine already exist to maintain population levels and ensure herd viability,” said Hilary Wood, President of FRER.
Earlier this year, FRER filed formal comments opposing the “research” that will be done on these conscious, wild mares. These comments – and comments submitted by more than 20,000 members of the public – were disregarded, prompting FRER to file its suit.
“These sterilization procedures are overly invasive, and they are unlikely to have applicability for mares on public lands,” said Laureen Bartfield, DVM, who volunteers with the BLM for the administration of noninvasive birth control.
“The unvisualized removal of the ovaries, while documented in the literature, is disfavored by reputable veterinarians. The BLM’s plan is not just clinically ill-advised, it constitutes animal cruelty on a large scale.”
The plans for eventual widespread sterilization of horses on the range will also run up an estimated cost to the taxpayers in the millions.
This is not the first time the BLM has pursued surgical sterilization for wild horses. Most recently, in 2016, FRER filed suit to stop a similar program; one month later, the BLM withdrew its plans.
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