Thomson: Wild horse roundup leads to new positive agency relationships

Since 2006, the provincial government has been rounding up abandoned livestock living on Crown land.

Since 2006, the provincial government has been rounding up abandoned livestock living on Crown land.

The reason these animals, often horses, are captured is that they have a significant impact on range land.

By rounding up these animals, the province is protecting sensitive range ecosystems.

The responsibility for this function of government falls under one of my ministries, the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations (NRO).

As minister for that portfolio, I take a keen interest both in ensuring Crown lands are managed in an environmentally responsible manner and that wild animals are captured and treated humanely.

Livestock roundups are an important responsibility for NRO, but one that never gets covered in the papers.

Until a few weeks ago. Earlier this year, NRO rounded up 11 horses that had been abandoned by their owners and left to fend for themselves.

The horses were grazing on Crown land in the Anglesey Range Unit, which is near Deadman Valley. The horses were humanely captured using portable corrals with trip gates. Then the animals were moved to stockyards near Kamloops.

Following standard practice, advertisements were placed in the local paper to inform the public of the capture of the horses, and to give the owners a chance to claim them.

Five of these horses went to auction on Feb. 8, 2011.

It was after this that I heard from local constituents associated with a group called Critteraid, an animal rescue organization. The women who contacted me were concerned about what would happen to the horses if they were sold at auction given the distinct possibility that they would go to slaughter.

I made the decision to hand over one of the horses to Critteraid without any cost.

Ministry staff in Kamloops worked very hard to make this happen. I want to commend them for their cooperation and willingness to consider options within the context of their responsibilities.

This was big news in Kamloops and here in Kelowna, as well.

I should add that the remaining five horses are currently in the care of the province pending a search for owners.

I applaud groups like Critteraid that are willing to invest the time, money and energy required to domesticate abandoned horses.

I have also instructed staff to explore the possibility of partnerships with animal shelters, rescue centres and rehabilitation organizations.

It is well worth looking for a long-term solution that will save seized, unbranded and ownerless horses from auction.

Toward that end, I have directed NRO staff to review current legislation and policies to see what can be done.

It is certainly something we are going to take a good look at. I am pleased that a positive outcome was achieved for all concerned, especially the horses.

Steve Thomson is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.



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