Feral British Columbia Horses Are Pawns In Battle With Penticton Indian Band

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

A mix of nearly 600 feral and privately owned horses were counted on Penticton Indian Band (PIB) lands in March during an aerial survey that’s expected to feature in the development of a new plan to manage their numbers. The horses that roam the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia have become a safety risk and a burden to local homeowners, and the problem is multiplying. The PIB is embroiled in a debate with both government, animal advocates and residents in the area who are seeing more branded horses venturing onto roads and residences. Many are in horrific conditions – virtually walking skeletons.

The concerns by other horse owners and residents are numerous.  People riding their horses in the Penticton area are afraid because feral stallions chase them. On the occasion that privately owned horses have gotten loose and mingled with the feral herds, it’s been difficult to retrieve them because some band members claim people are stealing band horses. In winter many are simply being allowed to starve to death. Adding to the problem is the issue of many newborn foals that are being abandoned and must be fostered by various caring advocates. But helping the horses has been difficult mostly due to issues arising from their ownership. Most area residents claim that about 2/3rd’s of the horses are branded by Two Buck Pierre of the PIB, who, according to them, either lacks the ability or the will to keep them penned and appropriately fed.

The provincial BC government won’t offer the feral horses any sort of protection due to their status as feral, and the native band takes the curious position that they are both simultaneously owned and un-owned. The provincial Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection does not have a policy on free-roaming horses because their jurisdiction is under the Wildlife Act, which does not recognize these horses as wildlife and therefore deems them to be undeserving of consideration. Because they were once domesticated, they are not considered wild in the way that bears, wolves, deer and cougars are wild.

Band Brand

This “JP” branded horse has ventured onto a private lawn in search of food. Notice also that the horse is unafraid of the homeowner taking the photo = not a truly wild horse.

In the past, the PIB seems to have little incentive to change their approach to managing the horses. When there are problems with horses venturing down onto the roads then the band has claimed they are feral. The band does not like to lay claim to the horses (unless it benefits them to do so in the case of slaughter or selling them as rodeo stock) so that is why they call them free roaming or feral, in order that they are not held responsible. Yet the majority are branded with the initials “JP” for Two Buck Pierre and are owned primarily by a few families on the reserve. The band knows exactly who the owners are but they deliberately downplay the numbers in an effort to get the taxpayer to pay for managing them. PIB Councillor Dolly Kruger lists herself as having 10 horses in the report included below, but privately acknowledges having about 40.

One can only wonder how the band can therefore legally round up horses for slaughter that they normally claim not to own (despite most being branded). In 2009 there was a mass slaughter, which is income to the band. The Bouvry plant was paying up to 45 cents per pound in June of this year. So, an average 1,000 pound per horse equates to about $400 at slaughter, and if the band culls 300, that would average $120,000 in each year of a cull. To add insult to injury, the band also wants the taxpayer to pay them wages to round up their own branded horses so they can benefit from the proceeds of slaughter. This being the case, there seems to be little justification for asking taxpayers to pay for fencing the horses when the band could pay for it themselves with the proceeds from slaughter.

band brand1This study (below) by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) is the closest anyone has ever come to having Chief and Council admit to the fact that the majority of these horses are owned by band members. Currently proposed options to manage herd sizes range from rounding up animals for slaughter to sterilizing them with contraceptive PZP, then erecting fencing to keep them out of populated areas. PIB Chief Kruger and the chief before him want a fence that will keep people out of the reservation. They have been trying to get the provincial government to pay for one for at least 20 years. While this will keep the horses off private property and out of traffic, it will not improve their standard of living unless their numbers are humanely reduced or more food is available. Advocates including Theresa Nolet of O.A.T.S (One At Time Success) Horse Rescue have offered to raise funds for PZP and its administration, however the Chief and Council apparently want to work with RDOS and horse owners only.

The RDOS has estimated a cost of $1,000 dollars per horse for the PZP with wages etc. They have not independently fact-checked these costs. Theresa Nolet has researched the costs involved in using PZP and was quoted approximately $300 to $400 for individual wild horses, which most of these are not. The prevailing belief amongst horse advocates is that the cost estimates are on the extravagant side in order to “persuade” the public that the slaughter cull is the only appropriate path to take.

It is hoped that a cost-effective, permanent fix can be agreed-upon that does not include slaughtering the horses. Councillor Dolly Kruger has acknowledged that “…there are so many studs out there and because there is so much inbreeding going on out there right now… they’re not healthy,” Kruger suggested the most prudent course of action would see one or two round-ups of horses for slaughter, followed by regular sterilization of mares using dart guns that deliver contraceptive drugs. Members of the project team expect to produce a draft plan later this year and implementation in early 2015 if everything goes as hoped. The plan is expected to include a call for fencing, corrals, feeding stations and/or a cull but a vaccination program for contraception is favoured.

The areas the horses reside in is not a wild range and these horses are not truly wild. Therefore, it is unacceptable to simply stand back and do nothing while observing the horses, who are not thriving in this environment, venture onto private property to find food, get hit by cars, only to ultimately starve to death in the winter. The band uses them for profit when it is convenient and leaves them to suffer when it is felt that there is no financial return to be made.

If a horse is branded it is traceable back to its owner, and in a just world that person would be found, charged with a criminal offence, fined heavily or jailed, and prohibited from future animal possession. If private individuals allowed their horses to wander the roadways, the SPCA would certainly act upon it, but they take no action whatsoever when PIB branded horses are observed to be starving or injured.

 

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About heatherclemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Feral BC Horses are Pawns in Battle | Canadian Horse Defence Coalition's Blog

  2. I think the band better make up it’s mind. But they were never big on looking after their animals anyway. I think the GOVERNMENT better get involved because at least something will get done

  3. If they do as outlined in the RDOS proposal and reduce the numbers by slaughter every couple of years then that is a business not a solution. If kill buyers in the USA can purchase horses at auction and ship them into Canada for slaughter and make a living doing that, than I do not see why taxpayers have to fund the PIB to take horses that they pay nothing for and ship shorter distances a wage to do so. Also would the money made on the slaugther be returned to the taxpayer? Fat chance! I do not want to see any horses slaughtered and I definitely do not want to pay for it! Although we already are through no interest grants to slaughter houses but that is another subject!

  4. This is a very well written account and I hope it makes it to the desks of those that are negotiating the possible changes/improvements. If it is a business of raising livestock for meat and profit, then I would hope at the very least the rules that apply to cattle grazing and ranching could apply to the horse ranching in First Nation’s communities and lands. Just saw on facebook that another horse is dead on the side of the highway North of Penticton.

  5. We are very impressed with this article. We live where the abandoned, not “wild or feral” horses roam. They completely grazed our orchard, grass that we were depending on to get our own horses through this winter. If tax payers treAted their horses like this, the spca and RCMP would be charging them, removing the horses to responsible ownership and ensuring the owners would never be allowed to have animals again. GO THEREASA NOLET! You are their guardian angel. Too bad their owners have no integrity or responsibility.

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