Animal Wellness Action Champions Historic Wins for Horses in U.S. House Spending Measures

On Friday, the U.S House of Representatives passed the last of a series of equine protection amendments and provisions included in the federal spending packages for Fiscal Year 2021 that would fund the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Veterans Affairs Administration (VA). Three of the four amendments were conceived by Animal Wellness Action, and all of the provisions were backed by the organization that has maintained a physical presence on Capitol Hill amidst COVID-19.

The amendments include $11 million for BLM to utilize in implementing PZP birth control within wild horse and burro populations on federal lands; $750,000 for a USDA Horse Protection Program audit; $1 million for USDA’s Office of Inspector General to better enforce the Horse Protection Act; $5 million for equine assisted therapy programs at the VA; and $1 million for DOJ to create an Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit to better enforce the Horse Protection Act and other anti-cruelty laws.

In addition, the underlying USDA spending bill included $2,000,000 in funding for enforcement of the Horse Protection Act – twice the amount provided in 2019; and language that urges the Secretary of Agriculture to implement an anti-soring regulation that was announced in 2017, but President Obama’s Director of the Federal Register failed to publish before the beginning of the new Administration.

“We applaud the House for going the extra mile to provide funding for these programs and call on the Senate join in protecting our iconic American equines, whose very backs this country was built upon,” said Marty Irby, a lifelong horseman and executive director at Animal Wellness Action. 

Wild Horse and Burro PZP Amendment:

This amendment to the DOI spending bill, directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to utilize $11 million of its $102 million Wild Horse and Burro Program budget to implement humane fertility control within the wild horse and burro populations. Using the funding for Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) would prevent the money  from being utilized for inhumane helicopter roundups, mass holding of horses in government-run facilities, and invasive and painful surgical sterilization in the field. Each horse in government holding costs the taxpayer $1,600 per year versus a dose of PZP that costs $30 per horse per year.

“I’m pleased this provision will force the Bureau of Land Management to move away from cruel and costly helicopter roundups toward humane management of these national symbols of our wild lands. It requires the Bureau of Land Management to utilize $11 million of its Wild Horse and Burro Program budget to implement PZP – a humane and reversible fertility control vaccine to manage wild horse populations,” said Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

 “I am pleased to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan amendment to ensure humane methods are used to protect and manage our nation’s beautiful wild horses. I appreciate everyone reaching out to offer their support of this amendment,” said Congressman David Schweikert, R-Ariz.

 “I am pleased to stand with the vast majority of my constituents and the over 80% of Americans who want wild horses protected on Western public lands. I’m proud that Colorado has been leading the way for humane management of wild horses with PZP fertility control. This Amendment will improve stewardship of wild horses and burros in other areas of the West,” said Congressman Joe Neguse, D-Colo.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. led the $11 million effort and was joined by Republicans and Democrats from all over the U.S., including many western states where the wild horses reside: Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Joe Neguse, D-Colo., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn, David Schweikert, R-Ariz., David Price D-N.C., Peter King, R-N.Y., Deb Haaland, D-N.M., John Katko, R-N.Y., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah.

USDA Horse Protection Program Audit Amendment:

This amendment to the USDA spending bill requires $750,000 be utilized by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) to complete an audit by July 31, 2021 of USDA’s Horse Protection Program, enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, and Slaughter Horse Transport Program. The last audit was completed in 2010 and clearly detailed the ineffectiveness of the USDA’s Horse Protection Program that has failed to end the practice of soring — the intentional infliction of pain to Tennessee Walking, Racking, and Spotted Saddle horses feet and limbs to achieve an artificial high-step known as the “big lick” that’s rewarded at prized events in Tennessee and throughout the Southeastern U.S. The measure was also led by Rep. Cohen, and cosponsored by Reps. Fitzpatrick, Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon, Ron Estes, R-Kan., Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Peter King, R-N.Y., Tony Cardenas D-Calif., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and John Katko, R-N.Y.

USDA OIG Enforcement Amendment:

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., stepped up and led an amendment to the USDA spending package that provides OIG with $1,000,000 in funding to crackdown on soring  and better enforce the Horse Protection Act, and other anti-cruelty laws. Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Madeleine Dean, D-Penn., Posey, Fitzpatrick, Cohen, Estes, Cardenas, King, Ann Kuster, D-N.H., McAdams, and Tim Burchett, R-Tenn. co-sponsored that amendment.

VA Equine Assisted Therapy Amendment:

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., championed an amendment to the spending package that easily passed, providing $5 million to the Veteran’s Affairs Administration for equine assisted therapy to help our American heroes who’ve suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those who’ve served our country will rest easier with the help of horses who may have otherwise ended up in the slaughter pipeline.

DOJ Enforcement Amendment:

Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo., ushered to passage a $1 million amendment that provides the U.S. Department of Justice funding to help create an Animal Cruelty Crimes Unit that would enforce the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act that President Trump signed into law last November, and better enforce other anti-cruelty laws such as the Horse Protection Act that have not been properly exercised. This comes on the heels of an alleged 2019 ‘pressure shoeing’ incident in Alabama that the USDA failed to address. Neguse was joined in this effort by Gaetz, Fitzpatrick, Ben McAdams, Bill Posey, Cohen, Cardenas, Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Katko, Titus, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Schrader.

Animal Wellness Action (AWA) is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization with a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife. We advocate for policies to stop dogfighting and cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty and to confront factory farming and other systemic forms of animal exploitation. To prevent cruelty, we promote enacting good public policies and we work to enforce those policies. To enact good laws, we must elect good lawmakers, and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t. We believe helping animals helps us all.

Contact: Marty Irby
Phone: 202-821-5686
Email: marty@martyirby.com

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