New Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Oppose Risky Sterilization Experiments on Wild Horses

Photo from Flickr by Dan Dzurisin
Photo from Flickr by Dan Dzurisin

Washington, DC—Seventy-seven percent of Americans are opposed to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposed surgical sterilization experiments on wild horses, according to a newly released survey.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).

Since 2016, the BLM—the federal agency primarily responsible for overseeing wild horses on public lands—has attempted to move forward with a controversial research proposal using an outdated surgical procedure known as “ovariectomy via colpotomy” on a herd of wild horses from the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon.

The goal of these experiments, where a metal rod-like tool is inserted blindly in order to sever a mare’s ovaries while the animal remains conscious, is to quantify risks and complications, including death.

The National Academy of Sciences explicitly advised the BLM not to use this surgical procedure on wild horses due to the risks involved, including trauma and infection. Under the BLM’s current proposal, as many as 25 surgeries would be conducted each day at one of the agency’s corrals in nonsterile conditions. The wild horses subjected to the procedure would receive minimal post-operative care.

The BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, charged with advising the agency on a wide range of wild horse management issues, is scheduled to meet at the end of October in Washington, DC Board members are expected to consider the proposed experiments and could potentially vote on recommendations regarding the BLM’s plan. The board is accepting public comments through October 18.

In November 2018, AWI secured a victory in federal court that blocked the BLM’s previous attempt to pursue these reckless experiments. Earlier this year, members of Congress in both the House and Senate condemned the use of ovariectomy via colpotomy on wild horses.

“Federal lawmakers and the American public have repeatedly stressed the need for the BLM to humanely manage wild horses—iconic and beloved symbols of the West,” said Dr. Joanna Grossman, equine program manager for AWI. “The BLM’s aggressive pursuit of mass surgical sterilization experiments ignores the wishes of a majority of Americans, wastes taxpayer dollars, and endangers the welfare and lives of federally protected wild horses.”

More information on survey methodology:

The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the AWI from October 8-10, 2019 among 2,027 US adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample; therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, (202) 446-2128, [email protected]