According to the BLM Draft Euthanasia Plan a horse may be subject to euthanasia if it "Exhibits dangerous characteristics beyond those inherently associated with the wild characteristics of wild horses and burros". The BLM stated that they have had this policy for years and has replied with a policy signed in 1999. The policy is pasted below. The link to the page on the justification doesn't link to anything because this is so old.
During the Nellis removal in July was the first time we have ever had a gather summary where a horse was euthanized under the the dangerous horse criteria. Since the Draft plan called for justification of such a euthanasia, we requested this justification for the destruction of a healthy horse. We received the justification today. It is posted below. However, one has to wonder if such reasons were justified. My comments will be in black and those of the BLM in blue.
According to the USDA vet who recommended the euthanasia at the request of the BLM the horse "stayed at the edge of the pen" near an adjoining pen which originally held mares. At this boy's age it is probable that he was a band stallion. These mares could have been his, or one or more may have been in season. Later that pen held stallions. He "did not stay close to or mix with the group of stud horses in his pen". Stallions who are band stallions or breeding domestic stallions don't mix well with other studs as they see them as competition. He was "very aggressive to other horses in the pen, not allowing them to stand at that end of the pen". Obviously he had determined his territory and defended it, especially since it was nearest to the mares. He "showed little or no fear of humans and would readily leave the group of horses in his pen" (huh, I thought he didn't group with the other horses) "and run past or though the people in the pen during sorting". Ok, he was avoiding the people and refusing to be caught again. He could have been fearful, nothing new here. I have seen domestic horses do that to avoid capture, especially when more than one person approached. Plus, he probably saw the gate being opened and was making for it to escape. Remember at this time he was in pens still in his own environment. He did this over several days until moved to his own pen, when the BLM employees moved him in fear for their safety. Probably when the decision was made to "euthanize" him.
The USDA vet, Dr Albert Kane, recommended his euthanasia based on an opinion that the horse's "unusual" behavior. He states that this made the horse "dangerous to handle beyond the danger inherently associated with the wild characteristics of wild horses and burros". No notes were made about the horse attempting to strike out, bite or otherwise intentionally injure anyone. I would also like to point out that the wording of this is exactly that of the Draft Plan, not the "established" policy. The established policy states that its actions must be a documented threat to the health and safety to the public and its "threatening" behavior. I don't believe that this was true in this case at all. It is simply that he was a 10 year old stallion that would have gone directly to the overburdened long-term holding facilities. It was much easier to euthanize him on the range where it was less likely that the public would hear of it until too late and it could be done unobserved.
While this old 1999 policy was dragged back out it is interesting that in the ensuing years the BLM had changed its general euthanasia policy several times, but not this one. In the old plan for the euthanasia of 'dangerous" horses it states...
Before the BLM may euthanize an animal solely on the grounds that it is unusually dangerous to human health and safety, the authorized officer, in consultation with a veterinarian, extension agent, local humane official, or other individual acceptable to the authorized officer, must determine that the animal poses a significant danger which is unlikely to be corrected through accepted gentling practices. The BLM's authorized officer and a veterinarian, extension agent, local humane official, or other individual acceptable to the authorized officer, shall prepare and sign a written document that provides a physical and behavioral description of the animal specifying the reason this animal is considered unusually dangerous. However, this euthanasia inspection was done by an USDA vet as the 2005 general euthanasia plan called for. It is all a bit confusing, are we following the 1999 policy or the 2005 which doesn't mention dangerous animals or the Draft Plan? This euthanasia seems to have taken a bit from this one a bit from that one and heaped them all together.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
July 20, 1999
In Reply Refer To:
4730.1 (260) P
Ref. IM No. 98-141
EMS TRANSMISSION 07/26/99
Instruction Memorandum No. 99-154
To: All Field Officials
From: Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject: Humane Destruction of Dangerous Wild Horses and Burros
Field Offices have raised concerns about handling and/or adoption of dangerous animals currently in the adoption system. This policy identifies the rationale and requirements for decisions to euthanize unusually dangerous wild horses and burros. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued and implemented policy to euthanize animals, because they are old, sick or lame (WO-IM No. 98-141, Humane Destruction of Wild Horses and Burros). The euthanasia of an unusually dangerous animal is permissible where it is declared excess through herd management policy and guidelines, and it is a documented danger to the public. The rationale and citations for this conclusion are attached. When the authorized officer has ascertained an animal to be dangerous, the BLM should euthanize the animal in a manner consistent with the BLM policy in Manual 4730 Destruction of Wild Horses and Burros and Disposal of Remains.
Prior to being offered for adoption, horses and burros are observed during capture, preparation, shipping and handling during adoption events and training. During this time, an animal may exhibit dangerous characteristics beyond those associated merely with the inherent wild characteristics of mustangs and burros. The BLM may identify these threatening animals as unusually dangerous and find that they pose an unacceptable risk to the health and safety of the public.
While unusually aggressive behavior might be an acceptable risk on the range, such an animal can pose an unacceptable risk of injury to persons, when they are maintained in enclosed spaces where some level of handling is required. When the Bureau knows that a horse is untameable and violent, it is reasonable to conclude that an average adopter could not "humanely care" for the horse as stated in the regulations (e.g., provide proper transportation, feeding, medical care, and handling 43 CFR 4750.1).
The BLM cannot solve the problem by removing unusually dangerous animals from the adoption system and placing them in a sanctuary because this resolution also poses significant risk of injury, both to the animals in transport, and to the sanctuary operators. Most facilities are operated by private businesses under contract with the BLM and a few small sanctuaries are or have been operated by volunteers. Both contractors and volunteers may have the right to file suit in the event of injury or loss, depending on language that the BLM has in its agreements with such groups.
The course of action the BLM will pursue in circumstances where an animal is a documented risk to health and safety of the public and determined to be an unusually dangerous animal, is humane destruction.
In all cases, the final decisions regarding humane destruction of a wild horse or burro for the safety of the public, rests solely with the authorized officer (43 CFR 4730). Humane destruction of unusually dangerous animals will be conducted according to the following procedures:
* Before the BLM may euthanize an animal solely on the grounds that it is unusually dangerous to human health and safety, the authorized officer, in consultation with a veterinarian, extension agent, local humane official, or other individual acceptable to the authorized officer, must determine that the animal poses a significant danger which is unlikely to be corrected through accepted gentling practices. The BLM's authorized officer and a veterinarian, extension agent, local humane official, or other individual acceptable to the authorized officer, shall prepare and sign a written document that provides a physical and behavioral description of the animal specifying the reason this animal is considered unusually dangerous.
* The Wild Horse and Burro National Program Office (WO-260) must be notified through electronic mail of the decision to euthanize an unusually dangerous wild horse or burro.
* The BLM should never euthanize a wild horse or burro solely for reasons of population control.
Since the passage of the Act, the BLM has handled over 160,000 wild horses and burros in the adoption system and surmises that the need to humanely destroy animals classified as unusually dangerous should be a rare occurrence.
If you have any questions regarding this policy, please contact Lee Delaney, Group Manager, WO-260, at (202) 452-7744.
Signed by: Authenticated by:
Tom Walker Robert M. Williams
Deputy Assistant Director Directives, Records
Renewable Resources and Planning & Internet Group,WO540
1 - Rational for Euthanasia of Dangerous Animals Based on Law and Regulations (1 p)