Bipartisan Support in Colorado General Assembly Sets Example for Wild Horse Management

The Colorado General Assembly has passed new legislation known as the Colorado Wild Horse Project to add state protections for the rights of wild mustangs and burros to continue to live on public lands versus being rounded up in a traumatic fashion. The bill, SB23-275, passed with an overwhelming majority and could have a profound impact on the animals.

So why the sudden change of heart? The legislative action is a response to last year’s deadly tragedy where 145 horses died unnecessarily during an influenza outbreak while kept in a Cañon City holding facility which was later discovered to be in breach of 13 policies after an investigation that included three BLM officials and a veterinarian from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

wild horses
Photo: Pixabay/kasabubu

The bill’s sponsors included the Colorado House Majority Leader, Rep. Monica Duran (D), and the House Minority Leader, Rep. Mike Lynch (R), reflecting the vast bipartisan support in the General Assembly.

On a national level, Congress unanimously passed the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to protect the animals. Unfortunately, many of the protections the law provided were repealed in 2004 when Senator Conrad Burns (R-Montana) attached a rider to the 3,000-page Omnibus Appropriations bill.

wild burro
Photo: Pixabay/nfaulk6

“We are thrilled state legislators have honored Colorado citizens’ overwhelming support for wild horses,” noted Colorado resident Ginger Fedak, a senior campaigner for In Defense of Animals. “With passage, we can lead the way for other states and national legislation to rebalance the rights of mustangs and burros to live on our public lands.”

For decades, advocates of wild equines have been campaigning for better treatment of wild horse populations, especially during roundups and warehousing. Bill SB23-275 prioritizes the retention of healthy wild horse herds in Colorado’s four Herd Management Areas (HMAs), which would reduce expensive and often destructive removals.

wild horse
Photo: Pixabay/kasabubu

The new law also addresses the need to improve the appallingly low quality of high-priced holding facilities where animals were reportedly being held in inadequate conditions indefinitely.

Another benefit of the bill’s passage will be the provision of additional staffing and resources for birth control measures among the herds.

It’s said a group of stakeholders experienced in wild equine matters will be working to find new locations for hundreds of the mustangs to live in sanctuaries or rescue settings. Another option is potential adoptions by horse farms and private ranches where they would be cared for.

wild burros
Photo: Pixabay/wildburro

The new program will be funded by both state and private resources. Passed by a margin of 58 to 7, Governor Polis — a strong proponent of improved management over roundups and removals — should be signing the bill into law shortly.

“We hope Colorado can lead the way to a better, more humane approach to caring for these cherished wild horses,” added Ms. Fedak. “We stand with our allies, ready to help Colorado’s innovative new plan work and show by example how we can save our wild herds of mustangs and burros.”

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