The issue of overpopulated wild horse herds in the western part of the U.S. is a growing problem.
In order to avoid mass euthanization or selling to slaughter houses, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has proposed rounding up wild horse herds and sterilizing the stallions in order to keep population numbers in check.
In a congressional hearing earlier this week, Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director Steve Ellis outlined the issue of wild horse herd overpopulation and called it a $1 billion dollar problem that needs to be addressed.
There are an estimated 67,000 wild horses and burros that live on federal land that spans over 10 western states. That is reportedly 2.5 times more than government corrals or leased pastures can hold, which are payed for by taxpayers.
The lack of wilderness and resources in the West makes wild horses susceptible "to excruciating death by starvation, dehydration and disease," according to Rep. Tom McClintock, chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on public lands. The California Republican stressed:
"That is the future we condemn these animals to if we don't intervene now."
The wild mustangs that are encroaching on habited areas are rounded up and held in corrals and pastures to await adoption. Programs like the Extreme Mustang Makeover attempts to train and tame the wild horses to be adopted by horse owners.
Unfortunately, the 1971 law protecting wild mustangs says that if the mustang goes unadopted then euthanization is allowed. Although, there is a bill that was passed in 2012 that prohibits mustang purchasers from reselling to horse slaughter houses.
The BLM does not plan on lifting these restrictions.
But many mustangs are not being adopted once rounded up.
"Quite frankly, we can't afford to feed any more unadopted horses," Ellis said. "I understand your frustration. We are frustrated too."
The BLM proposed sterilization as well as contraceptive vaccines for overpopulated herds.
There is though, someone on the Congress floor fighting to keep the mustangs roaming "freely on their native home ranges as intended."
Ginger Kathrens, founder of The Cloud Foundation based in Colorado Springs, Colorado and member of the Bureau of Land Management's wild horse advisory committee, says that:
"Castration, sterilization and long-term confinement of horses in holding facilities ... is unnecessary, cruel, unhealthy and fiscally irresponsible."
The hearing was an emotional one and the BLM plans to research different spay and neuter programs in order to start the sterilization process on wild horse herds.