The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (Public Law 92-195) required the protection, management, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public land. Congress declared that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the west; they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where they are presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.
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This law states; The Secretary of the Interior shall manage wild free-roaming horses and burros in a manner that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on public lands. It also states, if an over population exists on a given area of the public lands and action is necessary to remove excess animals, he shall immediately remove excess animals from the range so as to achieve appropriate management levels. Such action shall be taken, in the following order and priority, until all excess animals have been removed so as to restore a thriving natural ecological balance to the range, and to protect the range from the deterioration associated with over-population:
At first, the adoption program for the wild horses and burros was at the forefront of attention and sparked the interest of many individuals and horse sanctuaries. Since the passage of the act approximately 200,000 + wild horses and burros have been adopted to private individuals. Even with this high number of adoptions, it has been decided that public lands can only sustain 28,849 wild horses and burros in total. At the end of 2003 the wild horse and burro population on the open range was 37,186. The total number of wild horses and burros in captivity at the beginning of 2005 is approximately 14,000 animals in long term holding facilities and 7,000 to 9,000 in short term.
Short term holding facilities are the first stop for the horses and burros coming in from the wild. At these facilities the animals are seen by veterinarians, vaccinated, gelded, and brand certified. The cost per day for these animals is approximately $4.10. This cost is inclusive of cleaning, caring and feeding. Animals contained in long term facilities cost $1.27 per day. These animals graze on open pasture.
For the year 2005, the Bureau of Land Management's annual budget for the Wild Horse and Burro Program is approximately $40 million dollars. Half of this money is allocated for the care and feeding of the animals in captivity.
Advocacy groups across the Nation are lobbying for an Anti-Slaughter for Human Consumption bill to be passed in order to protect the wild horses and burros presently in captivity.
Even if the Advocacy Groups are to succeed, the "Excess Animals" may still be at risk for destruction in a humane, cost effective manner, as stated in the recent amendment. The amendment does not specify "slaughter" as the means to destroy these animals.
Bottom line - These horses need homes or somewhere to roam free.