Last week both houses of Congress approved a finance bill intended to keep the government functioning through September. But while the Omnibus Bill contains language that, in effect, prohibits horse processing in the United States, some advocates argue that the bill puts wild horses in danger.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, HR 244—the so-called Omnibus Bill—establishes $1 trillion to fund U.S. government agencies through Sept. 30 and establishes a budget to replace the current financing resolution which was set to expire. The legislation also contains an amendment forbidding the USDA from using any of its $153.4 billion to fund inspections at plants where horsemeat intended for human consumption is processed, which effectively prevents horse processing plants from operating in the U.S.
The bill would also allow the Bureau of Land Management to more easily transfer horses to federal, state or local governments to serve as work horses, while qualifying that transferred horses are not slaughtered for commercial purposes or euthanized without veterinary recommendation. Still, some wild horse advocates believe the legislation could put those wild horses at risk.
But Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, believes the transfers leave the horses vulnerable to transfer to third parties that would kill them or ship them to international slaughter markets.
“We call on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to put in place the mechanisms for transparency, accountability, and enforcement to ensure that the will of Congress and the American people to protect wild horses and burros from mass killing and slaughter is upheld,” Roy said.
Meanwhile, BLM Public Affairs Specialist Brian Lombard said the provisions contained in the bill would strengthen the agency’s ability to find good homes for excess wild horses
“The BLM annually adopts horses to employees at agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol, but the employees must adopt the animals in their personal capacity, with a wait time to receive title of at least one year,” he said. “The omnibus provision would allow direct transfer to benefiting Federal, State, and local agencies, serving both agencies’ missions in a more efficient process.”