Wild horse advocates across the country are applauding the U.S. Senate’s stance to protect tens of thousands of mustangs from slaughter. The animals have been federally protected since 1971, but their future is tied up in the ongoing budget debate on Capitol Hill.
Wild horses charging across the Western plains with their population multiplying by 20% a year. “In the last ten years we've gone from 30,000 to over 70,000,” said Lisa Reid with the Bureau of Land Management. “In the last three years, we pretty much stopped gathering."
For decades the BLM placed excess horses in private ranches and feedlots until they ran out of space. Now cattle ranchers see a range under attack with too many horses devouring forage where cows graze.
The big fear now is that the government will legalize the slaughter of these horses.
When asked if the answer is to slaughter the wild horses, cattle rancher Mark Wintch said, “What do you do with your cats and dogs when there are too many in the city? Do you just let them run rampant and scatter throughout the city?"
The U.S. House approved a spending bill in September opening the door to the wholesale destruction of the horses. But the U.S. Senate just released its own budget plan dropping that language and allocating more money to find humane and politically viable solutions to the population explosion.
"We were very relieved to know the Senate will maintain the ban on slaughter and we were able to catch a breath,” said Manda Kalimian the president of the Cana Foundation, an organization that has spent thousands adopting wild horses from holding facilities.
"Our biggest fear is that then the slaughter would be legalized in this country and there won't be a horse that won't be at risk,” Kalimian said.
Wild horse advocates want time to try new types of contraception to control the population and budget negotiators will determine whether they'll get a chance to persevere the animals.
The full Senate still has to vote on the budget put together by the Appropriations Committee. Once it is approved, House and Senate negotiators will have to reconcile the differences between their two bills.