The Paw Print
If you think that wild horses roaming on the range in large herds is a thing of the past, you should think again. The number of wild and feral horse in the United States has increased significantly in the past decade. This had led to significant issues in the government and the horse industry.
According to the Bureau of Land Management statistics, at the end of last February, there were about 31,500 wild horses and around 5,800 burros in West, encompassing Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming. In 2012, Congress appropriated 74.9 million dollars for the Wild Horse and Burro Program, with 43 million or 59.3% going to the cost of simply being able to house these animals, with another 7.1 million going for the expense of the gathering and removing of wild horses and burros.
This number does not even account for the massive number of feral horses, once domestic, that have simply been dumped in the wild to fend for themselves. Because of the drought, the mounting cost of feed, and the rise in the expenses necessary to properly care for a horse, the number of abandoned horses has increased significantly in the last decade. This problem has been compounded by the ban on horse-rendering plants which has left a glut in the horse market, as there is now nowhere to go with horses that are unusable because of illness or old age. Locally, because of the huge number of feral horses consuming forage, the southeastern counties of the San Luis Valley are becoming a wasteland
In recent weeks the state of Oklahoma has decided to do something about this issue and has been exploring the reinstatement of horse-rendering plants in Oklahoma. According to the March 29 edition of the Ag Journal, the Oklahoma Senate has passed a bill lifting the ban currently existing on horse processing plants by a vote of 32 to 14. Furthermore, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin indicated that she would likely sign the bill into law if it came to her. Ag Journal also stated that this bill is also supported by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, American Farmers and Ranchers, the Oklahoma Pork Council, the Livestock Marketing Association, Whitetails of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Cotton Council. Mike Spradling, the president of Oklahoma Farm Bureau stated that, “Oklahoma legislators have shown great courage and compassion for animals in passing this bill.”
This issue begs the consideration of what is the best solution to this growing. What really is the more humane option? A starving feral or sick old horse is a pitiful sight; shouldn’t there be a place for these horses to be rendered humanely? In the meanwhile, remember that it’s better not to own a horse than to take one while unable to care for it.