Nearly 80 veterinarians have signed a letter urging the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to withdraw its “misguided” proposal of “inhumane” surgical sterilization experiments on wild mares in the Warm Springs Herd Management Area in Oregon.

The letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt was delivered ahead of a Washington, D.C., meeting of the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board to recommend several strategies to manage wild horses in the area, including using surgical sterilizations to control populations.

The BLM is considering sterilizing mares – up to 25 a day — using an extremely invasive procedure called ovariectomy via colpotomy, which causes suffering to the horses and can lead to complications including infection and death. In this painful and traumatizing method, the mare remains conscious while a metal rod-like implement is pushed through a vaginal incision to remove the horse’s ovaries.

“Not only is ovariectomy via colpotomy far more invasive, inhumane, and risky than other nonsurgical methods of fertility control,” stresses the letter, “it is also more invasive and inhumane than the techniques that veterinarians use on domestic horses in the rare circumstances where some form of ovariectomy is clinically necessary.”

It goes on: “This procedure can be accompanied by a high rate of complications … including risks of infection, trauma, post-operative pain, hemorrhage, abdominal adhesions, evisceration, abscess formation, abortion, neuropathies, and even death …. The associated risks are exacerbated by the fact that, by the agency’s own admission, the surgeries will be conducted at the agency’s corrals in an operating space that ‘may not be entirely sterile.’”

This is the fourth time since 2016 that the BLM has tried to set in motion these dangerous experiments, but so far it has been blocked, most recently in 2018 when the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), the American Wild Horse Campaign and The Cloud Foundation attained a preliminary injunction preventing the bureau from undertaking the experiments.

“We are grateful to the many veterinarians, with their considerable medical expertise, who are speaking out against the BLM’s blatant disregard for horse welfare,” commented Dr. Joanna Grossman, AWI’s equine program manager. “Given the BLM’s aggressive pursuit of ovariectomy experiments, members of the veterinary community are sounding the alarm about the serious risks involved in this heinous procedure. It is imperative that the BLM ensure the humane treatment of all federally protected wild horses.”

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