A push by wild horse advocates for better shelter for captive mustangs at a Nevada adoption center has the backing of the Humane Society of the United States.
The society says about 1800 wild horses are in a potentially dangerous situation at the Palomino Valley National Adoption Center, a facility operated by the Bureau of Land Management near Reno.
Temperatures have been reaching record highs exceeding 100 degrees this month.
The society says there is no shelter for the horses at the center, despite the fact the bureau requires those adopting wild horses from the agency to provide adequate shelter for the animals.
In a letter to Neil Kornze, principal deputy director of the bureau, the society urged the agency to immediately install shelter for the horses at the center, and ultimately at all of its short-term holding facilities.
The society’s senior vice president of programs and innovations, Holly Hazard, said: “Wild horses on the range survive severe temperatures by seeking out shade, but the horses in the BLM’s care have no choice but to swelter in the sun.
“The BLM’s response to the situation — installing a sprinkler system and nothing else — falls short of its responsibility to the horses in its care, and the agency’s defense that the horses can cope in hot temperatures is unacceptable.”
The Nevada center announced on June 28 that it had installed sprinklers in three of the large, outside wild horse pens and five mare-foal pens as a stop-gap measure to attempt to reduce heat levels inside the corrals.
It said staff would observe how the animals responded to the sprinklers.
But Anne Novak, the executive director of Protect Mustangs, one of the groups pushing to get shade installed for the animals, said: “Putting sprinklers in a few pens appears to be a publicity stunt when what they really need to do is create shade for this emergency situation.
“The BLM is full of excuses of why they can’t create shade when they need to cowboy up and make it happen.
“If the government can send people into space then they can figure out how to shade the captive wild horses or just return them to the range. In the wild they can migrate to shady areas. In captivity it’s cruel to deny them shade.”
However, the bureau said that shade shelters in corrals had been considered and evaluated many times.
It said wild horses and burros were accustomed to open environments and when their nutritional demands were met, they did well against the natural elements, including sun, rain, snow, and hot and cold temperatures.
“Open corrals with plenty of sunlight have proven to be the best way to minimize disease-causing organisms. The BLM’s open corrals enable the drying effects of the sun and wind to take effect.
“Due to the temperament of the animals, the social hierarchy between the animals, and their unfamiliarity with shelters, the BLM feels that corrals without shelters are the safest approach.
“Shelters could create a potential obstacle for animals running and playing in the corrals, and cause significant injuries. The BLM has wind breaks and/or shelters for sick animals.”
The bureau added that it was nevertheless planning to consult the scientific research community to inform future options on this issue.