Wild Horses

Wild Horses & Burros home

Every year, thousands of wild horses are ripped from their native land in terrifying roundups, corralled in holding pens for life, adopted out, or sold to questionable buyers. Many of these horses are in turn sold to slaughterhouses. This is all sanctioned by the U.S. Government under a law passed more than 40 years ago to protect “these living symbols of historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” Yet, instead, the government seems more interested in protecting the interests of cattle and sheep ranchers.

In order to control “federally protected” populations of wild free-roaming horses and burros, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) — the government agency responsible for administering and enforcing the law — practices cruel and egregious methods of removing wild horses from public land.

Wild horse roundups are physically tortuous and indiscriminate as the young, old, and pregnant are forced into a violent stampede over rocky and dangerous terrain. Low-flying helicopters are used to scare and roundup the terrified horses, many of whom have never seen a human being before. Young animals collapse in exhaustion or are rendered helpless from injury as they run in fear for their lives. Spontaneous abortions frequently occur among the pregnant mares, and tight family groups are shattered in the chaos marking the end to their freedom. All will suffer further stress from their fated confinement, while others will also face worse—many of these federally protected wild horses are illegally shipped to the killing floor of horse slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada.

In Defense of Animals has a long history of deep involvement in horse protection. Here is just some of the work In Defense of Animals has done for wild horses over the years:

  • 2005 - Through a lawsuit, In Defense of Animals prevents the U.S. Forest Service from rounding up and auctioning off 350 wild horses from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona.
  • 2006 - In Defense of Animals files a lawsuit that results in the prohibition of the capture and removal of free-roaming Apache-Sitgreaves horses.
  • 2007 - In Defense of Animals cancels the roundup of hundreds of wild horses by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and Nevada.
  • 2008 - In Defense of Animals and wild horse activist Julianne French join forces to save 36 wild stallions at the 500,000-acre Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.
  • 2010 - In Defense of Animals discovers the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rounded up 36 wild stallions likely to be sent to slaughter and plans on rounding up another 1,400 horses from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, and quickly threatens a lawsuit against the agency for violating its own regulations. As a result, the roundup is called off and the 36 Sheldon stallions are returned to the refuge.
  • 2016 - In Defense of Animals launches an alert supporting the Save America's Forgotten Equines (SAFE) Act which would stop the shipping of U.S. horses overseas to slaughter, and prevent horse slaughterhouses reopening in the U.S.
  • 2021 - In Defense of Animals and its supporters make a renewed push to pass the SAFE Act. Passing the SAFE Act is our current federal legal focus.


Every year, In Defense of Animals empowers tens of thousands of wild horse advocates to contact legislators and decision makers urging them to save mustangs and burros. Join them!

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