This Policy is Inactive

Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy

IM 2013-059
Instruction Memorandum

January 23, 2013

In Reply Refer To: 4710 (NV934) P

Instruction Memorandum No. 2013-059

Expires: 09/30/2015

To: All Field Office Officials (except Alaska)

From: Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning

Subject: Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy

Program Area: Wild Horse and Burro (WH&B) Program

Purpose: The purpose of this Instruction Memorandum (IM) is to establish policy and procedures to enable safe, efficient, and successful WH&B gather operations while ensuring humane care and treatment of all animals gathered.

Policy/Action: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is committed to the well-being and responsible care of WH&B we manage. At all times, the care and treatment provided by the BLM and our Contractors will be characterized by compassion and concern for the animal's well-being and welfare needs. Effective immediately, all State, District, and Field Offices must comply with this IM for all gathers within their jurisdiction.

This IM is part of a package of IMs covering various aspects of managing WH&B gathers.

IM No. 2013-060, Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Management by Incident Command System

IM No. 2013-058, Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Public and Media Management

IM No. 2013-061, Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Internal and External Communicating and Reporting Roles and responsibilities of all gather personnel are covered in IM No. 2013-060, Wild Horse and Burro Gathers: Management by Incident Command System.

The goal of this IM is to ensure that the responsible and humane care treatment of WH&B remains a priority for the BLM and its Contractors at all times. Our objectives are to use the best available science, husbandry, and handling practices applicable for WH&B and to make improvements whenever and wherever possible, while meeting our overall gather goals and objectives in accordance with current BLM policy, standard operating procedures, and contract requirements.

The Lead Contracting Officer's Representative (Lead COR) is the primary party responsible for promptly addressing any actions that are inconsistent with the expectations set forth below. The Lead COR may delegate responsibility to an alternate COR. The responsibilities of a BLM Project Inspector are assigned by the Lead COR and are limited to performing on-the-job government inspection of work accomplished by the Contractor.

The Lead COR has authority to suspend gather operations if he/she believes actions contrary to the humane treatment expectations are taking place or that an unsafe condition exists. The Lead COR will promptly notify the Contractor if any improper or unsafe behavior or actions are observed, and will require that such behaviors be promptly rectified and eliminated. Any observed problems shall be reported at the end of each day. The Lead COR and Incident Commander (IC), through coordination with the Contracting Officer (CO) shall, if necessary, ensure that corrective action has been taken to prevent those behaviors or actions from occurring again and all follow-up and corrective actions shall be reported as a component of the Lead COR's daily reports.

Based on past experience with WH&B gathers and the need to adapt some gather practices to specific local conditions, the following information will be discussed with all gather personnel before gather operations begin and shall be incorporated as management's expectations that is included as an appendix to the documentation supporting the gather and made available on BLM's website. Humane care and handling of WH&B during gather operation is always the primary concern. During the pre-work conference facilitated by the Lead COR, expectations for the humane treatment and care of WH&B during gather operations will be discussed. They include the following expectations:

The Lead COR will ensure that the gather helicopter(s) will not be operated in a manner where, for any reason, the helicopter could reasonably be expected to come into contact with a WH&B. In cases when it is necessary during gather operations, hovering by the helicopter over the WH&B is acceptable.

Handling aids (including body position, voice, flags, paddles and electric prods) will be used in a manner that is consistent with domestic livestock handling procedures. Flags and paddles will be used as signaling and noise making devices first, with only light contact of the flag or paddle end allowed when necessary. Animals will not be whipped or beaten with these or any handling aids. Flagging and paddles will be used strategically and in a manner that avoids desensitizing the WH&B. While it may be necessary on occasion to use a hand or foot to safely move a WH&B, the Lead COR will ensure that kicking or hitting of WH&B does not occur.

Electric prods (hotshots) will not be routinely used on WH&B, but rather should only be used as a last resort when WH&B or human safety is in jeopardy or other aids have been tried and are not working. When used, electric prods will only be used to shock animals, not to tap or hit animals. Similarly, electric prods will not be applied to injured or young animals, nor will they be applied to sensitive areas such as the face, genitals, or anus.

Gates can be used to push WH&B but will not be used in a manner that may be expected to catch legs. Gates and doors will not be slammed or shut on WH&B.

Only the Lead COR will identify and request the Contractor to pursue and capture a single WH&B. Pursuing a single WH&B should be a rare event and not standard practice. If the animal is identified as a stud, further pursuit should be abandoned unless for management purposes (such as public safety, nuisance animals, or animals outside HMA boundaries or on private lands) it is necessary to capture the animal.

The Lead COR will ensure every effort is made to prevent foals from being left behind or orphaned in the field. If a foal has to be dropped from a group being brought to the trap because it is getting too tired or cannot keep up, the pilot will relay to the Lead COR and ground crew the location of the foal and a description of the mare to facilitate “pairing-up" at temporary holding. In this case, the Contractor will provide trucks/trailers and saddle horses for the retrieval of the foal and transport the foal to the gather site or temporary holding. If the helicopter is needed to locate and capture the foal, retrieval of the foal should occur prior to another band being located and driven to the trap. The method of capture will be directed by the Lead COR. The Lead COR will ensure that if during the gather any WH&B (including foals or horses that may be aged, lame, injured or otherwise appear weak or debilitated) appear to be having difficulty keeping up with the group being brought in, the Contractor will accommodate the animals having difficulty to allow for rest before proceeding, drop those animals from the group, or drop the entire group. It is expected that animals may be tired, sweaty and breathing heavily on arrival at a trap, but they should not be herded in a manner that results in exhaustion or collapse.

The need to rope specific WH&B will be determined by the Lead COR on a case-by-case basis.

While gathering, a WH&B may escape or evade the gather site while being moved by the helicopter. If there are foals in the band and an animal that has evaded capture has been identified as a mare that might have one of these foals, the Contractor may make multiple attempts to move the mare by the helicopter to the gather site for capture prior to roping or other alternative for capture. In these instances, animal condition and fatigue will be evaluated by the Lead COR on a case-by-case basis to determine the number of attempts that can be made to capture the animal.

Animals will not be pursued to a point of exhaustion or distress. Mares and their dependent foals will be separated from other animals at the temporary holding facility and moved to a designated BLM preparation facility.

The Lead COR will ensure that any foals that are not weaned and have been maintained with their mares at temporary holding will be transported with their mares to the BLM preparation facilities as soon as practical. The Lead COR will ensure that all sorting, loading or unloading of WH&B will be performed during daylight hours. All handling pens, including the gates leading to the alleyways, should be covered with a material which serves as a visual barrier (plywood, burlap, plastic snow fence, etc.) and should be covered a minimum of 1 foot to 5 feet above ground level for burros and 2 feet to 6 feet for horses. Perimeter panels on the holding corrals should be covered to a minimum height of 5 feet for burros and 6 feet for horses. Those panels attached to and leading directly into the trailers from the trap will be covered with a material which serves as a visual barrier. Padding should be installed on the overhead bars of all narrow gates used in single file alleys leading or leaving the squeeze chute set up. Screening will be placed on all division gates in the sorting area and solid fencing placed on panels from the working chute to the semi-trailers in an effort to decrease outside stimuli.

When dust conditions within or adjacent to the trap or holding facility so warrant, the Contractor shall be required to wet down the ground with water.

When possible (e.g., soil conditions allow) and as needed (e.g., the WH&B are unwilling to step up), the Lead COR should request that the Contractor will have the trailer floor at ground level to ease the loading of WH&B at the gather site. If the pilot is moving WH&B and observes an animal that is clearly injured or suffering, the animal should be left on the range and its location noted. The BLM Lead COR with veterinary assistance from an Animal Plant Health Inspection Service or locally licensed veterinarian will then go to the identified location as promptly as possible so that any animal that cannot make it to the trap will be inspected to determine the problem. The Lead COR will then decide on the most appropriate course of action.

Injuries that required veterinary examination or treatment, deaths and spontaneous abortions that occur will be noted in gather reports and statistics kept by the Lead COR.

At the discretion of the Lead COR, if a WH&B is injured or in distress during gather operations and the animal is within the wings or first corral of the trap, gather operations may be temporarily suspended if necessary to provide care for the animal and subsequent removal. Such actions should take place prior to the trapping of additional animals whenever possible.

The Contractor shall provide animals held in facilities with a continuous supply of fresh clean water at a minimum rate of 10 gallons per animal per day. Pens containing more than 50 animals will have water provided in at least two separate locations of the pen (i.e. opposite ends of the pen). Animals held for 10 hours or more in the traps or holding facilities shall be provided good quality hay at the rate of not less than two pounds of hay per 100 pounds of estimated body weight per day. If the task order notes that weed free hay is to be used for this gather the Contractor will provide certified weed free hay in the amounts stated above. The Contractor will have to have documentation that the hay is certified weed free. An animal that is held at a temporary holding facility after 5:00 p.m. and on through the night, is defined as a WH&B feed day. An animal that is held for only a portion of a day and is shipped or released does not constitute a feed day.

When extreme environmental conditions exist (such as temperature) during a gather, the overall health and well-being of the animals will be monitored and the Lead COR will adjust gather operations as necessary to protect the animals from climatic and gather related health issues. The Lead COR should be equipped to take air temperatures periodically throughout the day to help with the monitoring of environmental conditions at the gather site. There may be days when the Lead COR determines that gather operations must be suspended or ceased based on temperatures or other environmental conditions.

The rate of movement and distance the animals travel shall not exceed limitations set by the Lead COR who will consider terrain, physical barriers, access limitations, weather, extreme temperature (high and low), condition of the animals, urgency of the operation (animals facing drought, starvation, fire rehabilitation, etc.) and other factors. In consultation with the Contractor, the distance the animals may travel will take into account the different factors listed above and other concerns relevant to individual HMAs. With foals, pregnant mares, or horses that are weakened by body condition, age or poor health, the appropriate herding distance and rate of movement will be determined on a case-by-case basis considering the weakest or smallest animal in the group and the range and environmental conditions present. The maximum gather distance will depend on the specific animal and environmental conditions on the day of the gather and direct dialogue with the pilot/ Contractor and Lead COR to provide important information as to numbers, number of foals, locations distance and/or overall animal and/ or environmental conditions. The trap locations will be moved closer to horse locations whenever possible to minimize the distance the animals need to travel.

The Lead COR or IC should be available to provide a short briefing to any members of the public that may be present at the end of daily operations, including the preliminary tallies on the total number of animals captured by sex, number of foals, and any incident that required medical attention or euthanasia. This briefing should occur at temporary holding corral after all animals have been sorted, fed and watered and allowed to settle. The public should be clearly informed that such preliminary tallies may change after all the information is processed from the day's gather and that the final results of the day's gather will be posted to the appropriate BLM website.

The Lead COR should ensure that holding alleys will not be overcrowded at temporary holding facilities. If there is a risk of overcrowding, gates should remain open to allow animals to move back out of the alley and be reloaded. If an animal falls in the alley no other animals should be moved through the alleyway until the animal stands on its own or the alleyway is clear. The Lead COR should ensure that animals will not be left in alleyways for any extended period of time (greater than 30 minutes). If personnel are not present at the temporary holding corrals to sort animals, the horses should be placed into a holding pen until such time as they can be sorted and placed into the appropriate pen. Bait/water trapping: All traps will be checked a minimum of once every 24 hours when the traps are "set" to capture without human presence (trip trigger traps, finger traps, etc.). All handling procedures outlined above in this document apply to bait trapping to the extent applicable.

Again, at all times, the care and treatment provided by the BLM and our Contractors should be characterized by compassion and concern for the animal's well-being and welfare needs. The IC will ensure that everyone involved in gather operations receives a copy of these expectations prior to the start of the gather and the Lead COR and all BLM employees present shall ensure that gather operations are conducted in compliance with these expectations.

Timeframe: This IM is effective immediately.

Budget Impact: Unit costs for conducting gathers as a result of this interim guidance are not expected to increase significantly when compared to existing costs.

Background: The BLM is committed to the humane treatment and care of WH&B through all of the phases of its WH&B program. To ensure a clearer statement of its expectations and greater consistency in the program, the development of a Comprehensive Animal Welfare Policy has been undertaken. In addition to the standard operating procedures (SOP) for capture operations, SOPs for management on the range, capture operations, short- and long-term holding facilities, transportation, and adoption will be developed.

Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: None

Coordination: This IM was coordinated among WO-200, WO-260, WO-600, WO-610, WO-LE, WH&B State Leads, WH&B Specialists, State External Affairs Leads, public affairs and law enforcement staff in the field.

Contact: Any questions regarding this IM can be directed to Joan Guilfoyle, Division Chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program (WO-260) at 202-912-7260.

Signed by: Edwin L. Roberson, Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning

Authenticated by: Robert M. Williams Division of IRM Governance, WO-560