On Monday February 23, 2009, at least 11 and possibly up to 15 wild burros were shot outside of Phoenix in the Lake Pleasant area. As most of you know these wild burros are protected by federal law and the BLM is offering a reward of up to $5000 for the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this horrific tragedy. Due to the nature and the number killed, the charge will not be a simple misdemeanor, but a full fledged felony punishable by jail and/or fine.
The animals' bodies were found by people who were doing some off roading and they were shocked and horrified by what they found. Some of those killed were literally newly born, with other jennies in the process of either giving birth when shot or going into labor as they lay bleeding to death. The community and even the BLM are saddened by the deaths and they all appear to want to find out who did this. According to some from the area these burros are well known to the local residents and were curious and friendly animals, which may have made them an easy target for those who wished them dead.
To me this is not only a tragedy, but a moral issue that we as wild horse and burro advocates face. When people are looking at the wild horses and burros as "pests" or annoyances that are disposable we are very fortunate that this doesn't happen more frequently. The spokesperson for the local BLM office said because of the number it would be a felony (see the interview by clicking here), but EVERY case of shooting a wild horse or burro should be aggressively investigated and EVERY perpetrator should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The reason why the federal law isn't a deterrent is the fact that too often these cases go without being solved and when they are solved the person responsible often gets a simple slap on the wrist.
In 1998 34 horses were killed, including pregnant mares and young foals in Nevada. These horses were Virginia Range horses and fell under the jurisdiction of the state of Nevada. The 3 involved plead guilty to either a misdemeanor for one of the men and two plead guilty to a single count which was a gross misdemeanor. They paid $1500 in restitution (jointly), fines of $1500 and $2000 and various costs incurred. Tow of the men were Marines and they also were discharged from the military. (Note: Deanne Stillman covered this case in her book "Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse. If you would like to buy this book consider buying it from iGive.com and making AHDF your charity of choice.) In January of 2002 4 horses and a mule, including one nursing mare which ultimately led to the foal's death, were killed on the Outer Banks of South Carolina. That case has never been solved. In December of 2005 a pregnant mare was also killed in South Carolina after being shot in the stomach. The case was solved, but I cannot find the results. In January of 2007 at least 7 horses were shot outside of Pinedale, Arizona. This case included yearlings, and young horses and some of the horses were beheaded. The case has never been solved. In March 2007 in the Cedar Mountain HMA a 9 year old white stallion was killed and a black stallion was severely injured and had to be euthanized. It was never solved. In July 2003, 3 horses were shot to death west of Ely, Nevada, one a six month old filly. This was part of a 2 year string of deaths in the area that left 24 horses dead in Nevada and Utah. The case was never solved. In December of 2001 5 horses were shot in Colorado, this followed 37 horses being shot in neighboring Wyoming in December 2000. I cannot find any info on whether the cases were ever solved or not. In the 1990's over 600 horses were killed during a two year span in a disagreement between ranchers and the BLM. I cannot find out if these cases have been resolved or not or what the punishment was. There are many more cases and this doesn't include all the cases in Canada where wild horse were shot with no resolution to many of those cases either, except in some of them the government participated to trap or provide food for wolves.
As one can easily see the issue of shooting our wild horses and burros isn't new. Each one of the cases is equally horrific and those found should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to act as a deterrent for other such cases. I hope and pray that they will find out who shot and killed the burros in Arizona, but since so many go unsolved or with minimal prosecution, I am not holding my breath.
I hope that everyone will take a second and sign a petition (some of the links on this page come with VERY graphic and disturbing pictures, notice I have been up all night working to get the images out of my mind and to try to make a difference) and ask that the government actively pursue and prosecute EVERY violation of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act to the fullest extent of the law. It is up to us, the American people, to ensure that these tragedies are not just accepted and that those responsible pay for their callous and terrible actions. Remember that those who mistreat animals are very likely to mistreat humans, and we do NOT want that kind of person walking the streets free to harm others or more defenseless animals.