“At least one crewmember repeatedly hotshotted the burros while they were in the alleyway and while they were in the trailer,” states Kathrens. “It is ironic that this inhumane treatment occurred on the very day that BLM Director Bob Abbey announced procedures to improve what he referred to as ‘aggressive and rough handling of wild horses.’ I guess someone in BLM forgot to tell the Sun J crew.”
“It is obvious that there is a disconnect between the national BLM office and BLM field personnel,” states Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist who attended two days of the roundup with Kathrens and her assistant, Lauryn Wachs. “Electric cattle prods are barbaric and should not be used on already traumatized wild horses and burros. It can cause a lifelong fear of humans.”
The roundup of both mustangs and burros is currently in progress in the nearly 600,000-acre Calico Complex where BLM is allowing only 572 wild horses and 39 burros.
Kathrens explained the events that led up to the use of the cattle prods on the band of nine adult burros and one foal: “In the afternoon, the helicopter pilot drove 10 burros into the trap site with the help of four mounted riders. A short time later, we heard the pilot radio the ground crew, ‘Can you handle more horses?’ A male voice responded ‘Yeah. Bring them on.’ At that point, everything seemed to go into overdrive. If they could load the burros, the capture corral would be clear for the horses. There was money to be made,”Kathrens adds. “The contractor is paid by the head, so the 5 horses they got in after the burro incident netted them around $1,750.”
Sun J is typically paid $350 for each animal they catch. Advocates have long complained that this payment per head system encourages crews to move too fast and to use any means available to catch more animals.
“The ground crew began to rush, trying to get the burros into the back compartment of a stock trailer that already contained two mustang in the front section.” Kathrens explains.
“That was their first mistake,” states Marjorie Farabee, equine manager of Todd Mission Ranch and TMR Rescue in Plantersville, Texas, and an expert on the handling of burros. “You don’t do things quickly with burros and you have to have enough trailer space for them. They are not flight animals and they push into pressure which is just the opposite response you get with horses.”
Roger Oyler, BLM State Program Lead for Wild Burros and Horses in Arizona agreed, “You have to make it their idea, not yours. You have to have patience.”
“When the burros resisted getting into the trailer, the hotshot came out,” says Kathrens. The HD footage shows a man hanging over the fence near the back of the trailer. He is plunging the prod down into the burros in the alleyway. A few minutes later, he begins jabbing the prod into the back of the trailer where four burros stood facing out.
“If repeated shocks to the faces and bodies of these animals is not inhumane, then what is?” observes Wachs, who attended both the Sun J roundup in northeastern Nevada in January and the Calico roundup last week with Kathrens “BLM has the authority and the responsibility to step in, yet they did not. In this instance they just stood by and watched the torture.”
“Our on-going legal battle with the BLM over this very same issue of ‘humane care’ and handling in the Triple B roundup last summer is about to be ruled on by the U.S. District Court of Nevada,” states R.T. Fitch, president of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF). “The agency now has the opportunity to do the right thing and implement appropriate humane procedures, today, or risk waiting until the ruling comes down from the court and such implementation will be mandated by a Federal Judge. Either way, these acts of cruelty need to stop, and stop quickly.”
Advocate, Laura Leigh, VP of WHFF and the Founder of Wild Horse Education (WHE), who videotaped numerous abuses during the Triple B roundup including excessive use of an electric cattle prod, filed charges against the BLM on behalf of WHFF.
“Sun J has a history of abuse, yet BLM continues to award contracts to them,” says Kathrens, who filmed the Antelope Complex roundup in eastern Nevada last January and asked the District Attorney of White Pine County to file charges against the BLM and the Sun J crew for running animals to exhaustion. The District Attorney refused to act on the complaint.
“The communication and law enforcement teams during our three days of observation of the Calico roundup were very knowledgeable and helpful,” adds Kathrens. “It’s really too bad that this contractor and those in charge on site make everyone in BLM look bad.”
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LINKS OF INTEREST:
- Burros Hotshotted in Calico – Foundation video
- WHE Analysis of BLM Triple B Report
- AP Article on BLM internal review findings
- Exhausted Mare Collapses at Antelope Complex Roundup – Foundation video
- BLM Press Release on internal review
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- The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.