This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Bureau of Land Management officials recommended Thursday that a 20-acre horse-holding facility in Herriman transfer the majority of its horses to new facilities, not because they were abused, but because the pens are soggy.
Spring rains and poor drainage have caused excessively muddy conditions at the Salt Lake Regional Wild Horse and Burro Center, a BLM review team concluded Thursday. Such conditions have denied most of the 461 horses a dry area to lie down at the facility, which sits on a hillside rising 100 feet in some areas. Run-off is not a new issue and has created problems at the facility for years.
An advocacy group alleged earlier this month that the facility's conditions were inhumane after a would-be horse adopter took video showing one horse laying in mud, another with a large gash on its leg and a third that appeared malnourished. The 2.5-minute video posted on YouTube and subsequent complaints spurred the BLM to inspect the facility.
"The allegations that horses were having difficulty moving through the mud or were down and unable or having difficulty rising, were being herded or moved with a 'small bulldozer,' that horses tails were cut off, or that horses were being inappropriately worked in a 'metal box' or not being provided with adequate veterinary care were found to be without foundation," the BLM team said.
The horse with a cut leg and blue discoloration on its shoulder, shown in the video from March 15, was improving, and the wound had healed to only a small scar, the BLM team found. The discoloration was not bruising, but a disinfectant that had been used by a veterinarian to treat the wound.
Also, the cause of a 3-year-old horse's weight loss and thinness was unknown but may have been caused by tooth eruption, the BLM team found. Since March 15, the horse has gained more than 100 pounds.
"No violations of BLM policy or standard procedures were identified," the report stated. "No inhumane treatment or violations of existing animal care standards were noted by the Team or reported by Animal Control and Welfare authorities."
BLM team members came to their conclusions after inspecting the facility April 13, interviewing staff as well as animal control and veterinarians who are familiar with the animals at the site.
They also spoke by phone briefly with Lisa Friday, who shot the video, but she declined to provide any additional video from her three-hour visit to the facility or answer more questions. Friday said the video stood on its own merits.
BLM team recommendations
• Move most of the animals to other facilities.
• Keep the facility at reduced capacity during spring and winter until poor drainage and mud issues are resolved.
• Hire an agricultural engineer to evaluate soil conditions and facility layout.
• Contract for pen cleaning, manure removal and other maintenance.
• Formalizes guidelines to assess animal-care needs and capacity.