Euthanasia of Wild Horses and Burros Related to Acts of Mercy, Health or Safety.

PIM 2021-007
Permanent Instruction Memorandum States Department of the Interior



Washington, D.C.  20240


May 26, 2021


In Reply Refer To:

4730 (260) P    


Permanent Instruction Memorandum No. 2021-007 (Revised)


To:                  All Field Office Officials

From:              Assistant Director, Resources and Planning

Subject:           Euthanasia of Wild Horses and Burros Related to Acts of Mercy, Health or Safety.

Program Area:  Wild Horse and Burro (WHB) Program

Purpose:  This Permanent Instruction Memorandum (PIM) establishes policy and procedures for the euthanasia of wild horses and burros managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) when the BLM determines, consistent with this policy, an appropriate end-of-life action is required for reasons related to acts of mercy, health or safety.

Policy/Action:  Effective immediately, all BLM state, district, and field offices must comply with the policies described in this PIM. The key aspects of this policy are the authority, training, approved methods, reporting documentation, and reasons for euthanizing a wild horse or burro related to acts of mercy, health, or safety (Attachments 1 and 2).

The Authorized Officer (AO) or the Authorized Officer’s Representative (AR) will euthanize or authorize the euthanasia of a wild horse or burro when any of the following conditions exist:

  1. Sickness, failing health, or an infirmity, disease, injury, lameness, or serious physical condition or defect that has a poor prognosis for improvement or chance of recovery. This includes conditions that are not treatable or when treatment is impractical for a wild horse or burro in its present setting.
  2. A Henneke body condition score (Attachment 2) of less than three with a poor prognosis for improvement.
  3. Old age characterized by physical deterioration, the inability to fend for itself, suffering or closeness to death.
  4. Direction from a state or federal animal health official ordering the euthanasia of the animal as a disease control measure.
  5. The animal exhibits dangerous characteristics beyond those inherently associated with the wild characteristics of wild horses and burros.
  6. The animal poses a public safety hazard (e.g., loose on a busy highway), has escaped from a facility or pasture or is otherwise roaming freely in an unauthorized area and an alternative remedy (capture, relocation or return to a herd management area (HMA), pasture or facility) is not immediately available.

Budget Impact:  None.

Background:  The authority for euthanizing a wild horse or burro is provided by Public Law 92-195, Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 Section 1333 (b)(2)(A) and 43 CFR 4730.l. The policy contained in this PIM amends and/or replaces previous policies contained in BLM Handbook H-4750-1 Wild Horse and Burro Preparation and Management and in BLM Handbook H-4700-1 Wild Horses and Burros Management.

The humane care of wild horses and burros on the range, during gathers, or located on off-range corrals/pastures or other facilities require periodic evaluation of their condition by qualified BLM personnel or a veterinarian to provide for their well-being. At times, these evaluations will result in decisions that require euthanasia. These decisions are made with the intent to prevent animal suffering through acts of mercy, protecting animal and public health and safety, and the definitions of “old, sick and lame” that are provided in 43 CFR 4700.0-5 as follows:

  1. Old Wild Horse or Burro - Characterized because of age by its physical deterioration and inability to fend for itself, suffering, or closeness to death.
  1. Sick Wild Horse or Burro - A wild horse or burro with failing health, infirmity, or disease from which there is little chance of recovery.
  1. Lame Wild Horse or Burro - A wild horse or burro with one or more malfunctioning limbs that permanently impair its freedom of movement.

Pages of Manual/ Handbook Sections Affected:  This IM supersedes the Wild Horses and Burros Management Handbook, H-4700-1 Section 4.9.

Instruction Memorandums Affected:  This IM replaces expired IM 2015-070, Animal Health, Maintenance, Evaluation and Response

Coordination: This PIM was coordinated among HQ-100, HQ-200, HQ-260, HQ-600, WHB State Leads, APHIS Veterinarian, WHB Facility Managers, and WHB Specialists.

Contact:  Direct all questions regarding this IM to the Division Chief, Wild Horse and Burro Program (HQ-260) at 866-468-7826 or


Signed by:                                           Authenticated by:

David Jenkins                                     Ambyr Fowler

Assistant Director                               Division of Regulatory Affairs and Directives, (HQ-630)

Resources and Planning



3 Attachments

  1. Guidance for Euthanasia Related to Acts of Mercy, Health, and Safety (11 pp)
  2. Henneke Equine Body Condition Scoring Chart (1 p)
  3. Firearms training and certification