U.S. House approves bill to protect wild mustangs

The U.S. House voted today to save mustangs and wild burros from slaughter and give them more room ROAM.

In a 239-185 vote, the House approved the Restore Our American Mustangs Act to end government-sponsored slaughter of wild horses, reduce the number of animals held in small pens and add millions of acres to the wildlife ranges.

About 36,000 wild horses and burros live in 10 Western states.

The move came almost a year after the Bureau of Land Management threatened to slaughter 30,000 horses because of overgrazing,

Supporter Rep. Nick Rahall (D., WV) said slaughtering healthy animals to control their population should not be an option.

"How in the world can a federal agency be considering the massive slaughter of animals the law says they are supposed to be protecting?" he said.

Republican opponents argued that with double digit unemployment rates it was wrongheaded of Democrats to focus on animals. Other opponents charge the federal government mismanaged the herd by not allowing slaughter and that more horses will further stress the environment, the Associated Press reported.

"This bill is based on emotion and not science," said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, (R.,WY). She said the bill would elevate wild horses above threatened and endangered species in her state.

There is no companion bill in the Senate.

Cost estimates for the bill total roughly $200 million over five years. And 20 million acres would be added to the 33 million acres of grazing land in the West.

The bill also would allow agreements to establish wild horse sanctuaries on nonfederal lands, boost the adoption program and sterilize more animals. It would prohibit the killing of healthy wild horses and burros and restrict time spent in holding pens to six months.

The Humane Society of the United States praised the legislation, saying the current program of rounding up wild horses and keeping them in holding pens is a "fiscal and animal care disaster."

"We have got to get off the current treadmill of spending millions of tax dollars rounding up wild horses and caring for them in captivity, and instead make wider use of fertility control as a humane population management tool," said Wayne Pacelle, the organization's president and CEO.