US Dept of Interior Denies Allegan County Resident’s Appeal to Adopt Additional BLM Mustangs/Burros

Black Mare & Filly_1

October 12, 2015:

The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition (MHWC) applauds the decision by the United States Department of the Interior to deny an appeal filed by Allegan County, Michigan resident Wendi Bierling to be removed from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) list of banned adopters for wild mustangs and burros. The denial comes after Bierling failed to file the appeal within the allotted time limit, which expired on January 22, 2015.

The official ruling, issued on April 8, 2015, states: “On December 9, 2010, Bierling purchased 29 wild horses from BLM… Sometime thereafter, BLM informally determined Bierling to be ineligible for future adoptions or purchases of wild horses under the jurisdiction of BLM and listed her on the Wild Horse and Burro Information System (WHBIS)…Thus, when Bierling applied to adopt or purchase additional wild horses from BLM in December 2014, BLM declined to grant them.”

Bierling was declared “ineligible to receive any wild horses, by adoption or purchase, because of prior inhumane treatment of wild horses,” according to the ruling. It further states: “The record is replete with photographic and other evidence of inhumane treatment of wild horses, which Bierling had purchased from BLM. Stating that ‘[t]reating a wild horse . . . inhumanely’ constitutes a ‘prohibited’ act, under 43 C.F.R. § 4770.1, the Field Office informed Bierling that, ‘because there is more than sufficient evidence in both verbal and written statements, as well as photographic evidence, that [she] previously neglected wild horses to the point of severe malnutrition and emaciation,’ her recent applications to adopt wild horses were denied and any future applications to adopt or purchase wild horses would be denied.”

The MHWC also welcomes confirmation that a database has been put into place by the BLM to ban certain adopters from acquiring additional equines. It is the MHWC’s understanding that the BLM did not have such a database prior to the Bierling case.

Read the complete ruling here: https://www.oha.doi.gov/IBLA/Ibladecisions/185IBLA/185IBLA257%20WENDI%20S.%20BIERLING.pdf

Background: The Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition became involved with the Bierling case in May 2011 after Bierling applied for hay assistance for a herd of mustangs she acquired in February 2011 from the BLM. The mustangs had been captured by the BLM the previous August from the Twin Peaks area of California. After assessing the situation and believing that for some of the horses the situation was quite dire, and after re-homing offers were denied by Bierling, the MHWC contacted Allegan County Animal Control for assistance. At that time, it was recommended to the MHWC that any hay assistance might interfere with an initial investigation, so her application for hay was denied.

In the end, despite a recommendation by investigators that Bierling be charged with 16 counts of animal neglect (http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2011/06/16_counts_of_animal_neglect_re.html), no charges were filed (http://www.michiganhorsewelfare.org/news/no-celebrating-for-michigan-mustangs-this-holiday-weekend).

However, in September 2011 the MHWC, along with the help of numerous volunteers, was successful in shipping nine of the mustangs back to the Dreamcatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in California, which sits just miles from where the mustangs had originally been captured. The MHWC transported an additional four mustangs from Bierling’s property to the California sanctuary in May 2012 (http://www.michiganhorsewelfare.org/news/wild-mustangs-in-michigan-head-home-to-california).

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