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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More Horsepower to Get Over the Finish Line

I attended a hearing this morning in the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on H.R. 1018, the Restoring Our American Mustangs (ROAM) Act. This bill, introduced by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), would save wild and free-roaming horses and burros from inhumane round-ups and slaughter, and would save American taxpayers millions of dollars by managing horses and burros on the range rather than keeping them warehoused in federal holding pens.

Wild-horses HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle and other advocates testified in favor of the bill, making the case that the Bureau of Land Management’s current wild horse and burro program has failed and that a new direction is sorely needed. We are grateful to Chairman Rahall and Chairman Grijalva for working to ensure the continued protection of wild horses and burros and to rein in the BLM’s antiquated policies in favor of a more innovative and cost-effective approach.

Also under consideration at today’s subcommittee hearing was a bill by Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) which would transfer a piece of land from the BLM to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Now, if you think there’s no connection between horses and racing—auto racing, that is—you might be off track. One longtime HSUS supporter, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chairwoman Mari George, has found a unique way to throw some added horsepower behind our horse protection efforts.

For the third year in a row, Mari has generously donated special VIP packages to several high-profile Indy races, each to be auctioned on eBay, with all proceeds from the packages going toward The HSUS’s horse protection work. The packages include luxury suite seats, hotel accommodations, a police escort to the race, and behind-the-scenes access to the 2009 Indianapolis 500 on May 24, the 2009 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (featuring a personal meet-and-greet with NASCAR driver Greg Biffle) on July 26, and the Moto GP Red Bull Indianapolis GP on August 30. Last year’s auctions raised more than $50,000 for horse protection efforts, and we hope to top that number this year.

Rescued_horse This isn’t the first time Mari has stepped up to the plate for America’s horses. It was because of Mari’s generosity that The HSUS and The Fund for Animals were able to rescue 30 horses who were standing inside the Cavel slaughter plant in northern Illinois when a court ruling forced it to halt operations. Named the “Miracle Horses,” these are the only horses known to have seen the inside of a slaughter plant and walked out alive. All the Miracle Horses now live in peace and safety at sanctuaries around the country, including Mari Mariah and Josie Sahara, a mother-daughter team who reside at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas.

Despite progress in the fight to stop horse slaughter, much more needs to be done. The Illinois legislature is considering a bill to repeal the state’s horse protection law, which would allow the reopening of the very foreign-owned horse abattoir from which Mari Mariah, Josie Sahara, and the other Miracle Horses were saved. Montana lawmakers are also considering legislation that would authorize the creation of investor-owned horse slaughter plants—and would put in place dangerous provisions to protect such a slaughter plant from judicial challenge. State lawmakers must defeat these ill-conceived measures and not allow their states to take a step backwards into the past. 

And the U.S. Congress must pass the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), and soon to be introduced in the Senate by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.). This legislation, combined with the ROAM Act, will give horses the protection they deserve—as cherished American icons, not trucked thousands of miles to slaughter plants in Canada and Mexico, and not warehoused in federal holding pens living on the government dole.

Only with your support can we get these important policy reforms for horses over the finish line. The eBay auction opens on March 9 and continues through noon (EST) on March 18. Click here for more information and start revving up your engines for the bidding.

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