A congressman from Wisconsin and a horse rescuer from Janesville nibbling at the top to support a bill to improve the management of wild horses and donkeys in the west.

The US House of Representatives Grants Committee recently passed bipartisan bill giving the Bureau of Land Management $ 11 million to safely control the fertility of the wild horse population.

Committee member Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Whose district includes western Rock County, said a fertility program is needed that is a “low cost, humane alternative” to the removal and killing of wild horses that encroach on ranchers’ land .

In a press release from the American Wild Horse Campaign, Pocan criticized existing practices.

“The current strategy for managing our wild horse and donkey population is cruel and inefficient, putting them at risk of slaughter,” he said.

In recent years the BLM has been criticized for its handling of wild horses. The bureau spent less than 1% of its funds on fertility control, according to a review of spending by the Congressional Research Service.

The agency launched a horse adoption program to reduce overcrowding of the facilities, but the program came under fire after an investigation found that some of the adopted children were taking them to slaughterhouses.

DeeDee Golberg, President and Founder of Spirit Horse Equine Rescue, based in Janesville, works with both rescued and wild horses. Her nonprofit organization focuses on rehabilitating displaced animals by providing them with adoptive homes or on-site shelters.

Golberg knows firsthand the conditions to which some wild horses are exposed. In 2017, she traveled to South Dakota to rescue two pregnant mares in a group of over 800 allegedly neglected horses.

She said she thought the bill was a step in the right direction.

A crucial thing the law would do, Golberg said, is to put an end to the “helicopter raids” of wild horses. During these exercises, helicopters fly over a herd of horses to get them to run together in a desired direction. This practice is particularly dangerous for foals, who can be trampled to death in the resulting onslaught.

“They are traumatic and can be fatal for the horses,” said Golberg of the raids.

The root of the problem of poor wild horse welfare, Golberg said, is territorial fights between wild horses and cattle grazing on public land. It points to cheap pasture leases given to ranchers, which creates “competition”.

“Give (the horses) their land,” argued Golberg. “Management won’t be necessary. It will actually go back as nature intended. “

That being said, Golberg said the plan, approved by the House Budgets Committee, was sensible and positive. “The fact that we are making progress is phenomenal,” she said.

The bill will now go to the Senate, where a final vote could take place this month.

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