BLM approves controversial wild horse sterilization experiments despite public outcry, veterinarian opposition

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Graphic video depicts barbaric experiments on wild horses planned by Oregon State University and U.S. Bureau of Land Management

VIDEO of planned surgery here 

Expert testimony from veterans opposed to experiments

and more background here

BURNS, Oregon (June 27, 2016) - Despite objections by more than 21,000 members of the public and formal complaints to leadership of Oregon State University, OSU and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management today released a Decision Record announcing its intention to move forward with barbaric experiments on Oregon wild horses.

“It’s unconscionable that OSU and BLM are proceeding with gruesome sterilization experiments on America’s wild horses, ignoring science and public opinion in the process,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC). “These experiments will put wild horses at risk of suffering and death and cause many pregnant mares to abort their unborn foals.”

OSU and BLM plan to carry out an experimental surgery called “ovariectomy via colpotomy,” in which a veterinarian cuts into a mare’s vaginal wall, places his hand and arm through the vagina in the abdominal cavity, manually (and blindly) locates the ovaries and then severs them with a rod-like chain tool called an ecraseur.

In testimony to BLM, veterinarians have decried the procedure as outdated and dangerous. Full testimony is available here.

“I can say without hesitation the mare sterilization plan proposed by the BLM poses significant risk to the welfare, health and survivability of the mares used in this study,” said Robin Kelly, DVM, an equine medicine expert in California, in an expert opinion submitted to AWHPC on the proposed experiments. “I do not believe the BLM should proceed with this experiment. Much safer and less invasive options are available that maintain normal herd behaviors and social interactions.”

BLM and OSU plan to carry out the procedure on more than 100 mares held in the BLM’s wild horse corrals in Hines, Ore. An additional 125 mares will be subjected to less invasive, but unproven, sterilization procedures, one of which also involves surgical incisions.  

Because the experiments will be performed on wild animals, it’s not possible to provide the same post-surgical care available to domestic animals. The mares can’t be forcibly restrained to prevent movement after surgery, nor would the wild horses be provided pain relief after surgery.

Roy added that OSU and BLM’s plans to perform the experiments is based on misleading, inaccurate and incomplete information provided by the veterinarian in the graphic video AWHPC has posted.

Simone Netherlands, president of the Salt River Horse Management Group, said she witnessed the planned procedure being performed on horses at a training workshop conducted by the veterinarian last year and was “appalled” by its brutality. She said the horses’ suffering and the severity of their wounds as a result of the surgery was apparent.

 “The public overwhelmingly wants our wild horses protected and humanely managed, not surgically mutilated in unnecessary and unjustifiable experiments,” said Netherlands, noting that polls show 3 in 4 Americans support protecting our nation’s wild horses on public lands. Federal law protects these animals from capture, harassment and death. “These experiments are unnecessary and unacceptable, particularly when a humane population management tool is available in the PZP birth control vaccine.”

In the training workshop that Netherlands attended, Leon Pielstick, the veterinarian who will also perform the BLM experiments, performed ovariectomies (surgical removal of ovaries) on five burros and a horse. The horse and one burro died, one burro suffered an abortion, and two burros developed post- operative infections that required extensive veterinary care to recover from. The animals used in the workshop were tame; had they been wild, post-surgical care would not have been possible and the death toll would have been higher.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is dedicated to defending America’s wild horses and burros to protect their freedom, preserve their habitat, and promote humane standards of treatment. AWHPC’s mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations. 

The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group is an Arizona non-profit organization established to protect, monitor and scientifically study the Salt River Wild Horses. The SRWHMG has been spearheading the effort to secure lasting protections for this iconic and beloved wild horse herd in the Tonto National Forest.