In September BLM Director Bob Abbey announced that a review team composed of agency personnel would review existing agency procedures used at the Triple B gather. On Dec. 7 the BLM released the panel’s findings.
After reviewing U.S. District Court materials and conducting interviews with external equine welfare advocates, BLM personnel, and the helicopter contractor used in the gather, review team members reported no consensus among animal welfare experts that animals were treated inhumanely during a single incident during the gather. However, the panel did cite specific incidents of “inappropriate, aggressive practices” during the gather including cases when helicopter operators few too closely to a single horse or pursued small groups of horses or a single horse too long.
As a result of its review, the panel issued 11 recommendations to improve BLM horse handling during gathers including:
- The review and update of gather standard operating procedures, contractor provisions, procedures and guidelines to ensure that agency personnel and contractors clearly understand management expectations of appropriate gather conduct; and
- Providing continuous appropriate horse-handing training for all gather participants, and the development of a training program for agency personnel and contractors on ways to handle wild horses at trap sites and holding pens in order to eliminate stress on the animals.
Joan Guilfoyle, BLM Wild Horse and Burro Division chief, said the agency is taking steps to reassess the agencies wild horse handling practices based on the review panel report: “I am instituting a proactive process for conducting internal reviews of many aspects of our program to ensure that we are moving toward the ‘new normal’ of wild horse and burro management. The Triple B review and associated recommendations are already being used to improve on-the-ground practices for gathering and handling wild horses.”