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  • Writer's pictureStaci-lee Sherwood

Wild horse crisis at Canon City Prison leaves many unanswered questions

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

By Staci-lee Sherwood

The Canon City Prison Complex (CCP) in Colorado isn’t just a prison for human inmates, it’s often been called a prison for the wild horses held there. Every year thousands of wild horses are rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) despite the horses being granted legal protection under the law in 1971. The very act of the roundups violates more than the intent of the law, the roundups themselves violate many animal cruelty statues as well. If the law had been enforced these past 50 years most of the issues at this prison would not have happened.

Where is Dept of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland? She is missing in action as always. No one will call her out because they fear being called racist or sexist. Neither would be true since Haaland has turned out to be the most incompetent and most anti wildlife boss of a job previously held by men. Her gender and race have nothing to do with her negligence but give her a pass in 2022.

Unlike most holding facilities this one had a program where the inmates took care of the horses. When I spoke to Annie Skinner in November 2021 I was told that inmates interested in working with horses just had to sign up. There was no further vetting done into the background of inmates. Then seemingly out of the blue the program was cancelled. For years allegations of abuse of the wild horses came from eyewitness accounts from many advocates and non profits concerned about the welfare of the horses now in a high stress situation.

Over the years rumors that CCP was part of the slaughter pipeline that is very much a part of the BLM roundup program fanned the flames of concern. While the BLM did hold adoptions, in reality very few horses ever get adopted. Horses are brutally rounded up and removed from the range then transported to one of several holding facilities. Many of these places are privately owned but supported with tax dollars and closed to the public. Whenever the public is closed off oversight and accountability fall to the way side. Horses come in and then seemingly disappear.

The images the BLM projects make it appear the horses have lots of room to freely graze. The eyes go to the pretty trees and mountains in the back and all that land in between. The BLM wants the public to think of this as a sanctuary with love and medical care. This is not how horses live in any holding facility. This photo does not show the dirty water, sick neglected horses and horse poop many horses have to stand or sleep on. A photo is a moment captured it never tells the whole story.

This is really how horses are forced to live. Packed into feedlots made for cattle A visual violation of the 1971 Wild Horse & Burro Act which was suppose to keep them free not prisoners at an actual prison. Canon City Wild Horses from the September Sand Wash Basin round up. Photo by Mark Neitro, CBS4.

Independent investigations with eyewitness accounts have shown that the number of horses the BLM lists at any given facility is higher, sometimes alarmingly higher, than the number of horses actually there. Kill buyers have a cozy relationship with the BLM and swarm the adoption events. This is the worst kept secret and has been reported on many times. Records are not accurate and there is rarely any type of clear full photo ID with freeze marks making it easy for horses to go missing. Corruption has hounded this agency for decades especially where the Wild Horse & Burro program is concerned. Listen to eyewitness accounts about the slaughter pipeline none of the non-profits will tell you…do they even bother to find out ? ‘CRISIS at Canon City & Wheatland Wild Horse Holding Pens 5.17.22’ click here

In April 2022 the BLM official for the prison, Steve Leonard, started making claims that horses there were dying from equine influenza. Dozens of deaths out of the blue from the flu that is rarely fatal makes no logical sense. Daily death tolls mounted till they hit 145 then as quickly as they started they stopped…..As the death toll rose calls for an independent investigation into the BLM and the prison have been ignored.

Wanting control the BLM said they would investigate themselves. First they said only the west douglas horses were dying despite having been there for months. A claim about weak genes causing the deaths was suggested, which the BLM would be responsible for causing the loss of diversity due to incompetence and roundups. Then a shift back to the flu due to not being vaccinated, while the more recently rounded up sand wash basin horses were vaccinated, was the cause. Along the way the BLM added they were understaffed, the horses were extra stressed and exposure to a wildfire months before being rounded up have been thrown out for public consumption.

There is no independent proof of any of this everyone involved has ties to the BLM, USDA or Colorado State University and have a vested interested in maintaining the status quo. This includes all the ‘non-profits’ involved especially those located in the state.

Genuine Wild horse advocates want 3rd party verification that :

1. Horses have died ON the premises and NOT been sent to slaughter

2. Detailed necropsy reports showing cause of death by independent veterinarian not employed by the USDA

3. Photo ID with corresponding freeze mark number of every horse listed as being there

4. Name of person/company who picked up the dead horses

5. Location where the dead horses were sent

photo Kathe Kloberdanz

Gov Jared Polis on May 19th, 2022 called for a delay to BLM roundups on Twitter

“Due to the loss of 142 horses from disease, I am calling for a delay to consider more humane options for the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse roundup.”

Where are all those non-profits like HSUS, ASPCA, American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), Return to Freedom (RTF), SWAT- Sand Wash Advocate Team, The Cloud Foundation and Wild Horse Education (WHE)? Every Facebook post and email alert begs for money despite these groups collectively having over $600,000,000 they are NOT using to sue the BLM for negligence. How many horses and burros did they buy to save from slaughter? HSUS owns the patent to PZP but have they saved any wild horses for real? What could they be spending the money on? How many have gone to Canon City in person to take an actual count of horses there? How many have demanded proof of death of the horses the BLM claims died? Two Colorado based non-profits have no excuse for not being at Canon City demanding answers.

The Cloud Foundation has been reporting on Canon City but why no protests? This should be their prime issue, it’s a local one in their backyard. If they don’t take a pro active stance they are little more than a secretary passing on information they don’t act on. Ironically they host many webinars about how to advocate for wild horses. I can’t think of a better way to advocate for wild horses than by getting some volunteers, bull horns and video cameras and go there to do something. They support the insidious use of PZP though have remained more quiet on that issue. Actions and lack of actions speak the true agenda.

SWAT - Sand Wash Advocate Team has only one purpose, to shoot up as many horses as they can with toxic birth control drugs that come with a long list of health concerns. Their Facebook page has a few posts about Canon City and it’s clear after reading them their only concern is for the sand wash basin horses not the west douglas horses. No posts about this crisis since May 1, as if it’s all been solved. The posts they do have are standard BLM excuses with the obligatory apologetics from this group still desperate to get in on the money train of PZP. That is all that drives this misguided group.

Their words may be somewhat veiled but their meaning obvious. The group is run by Stella Trueblood, is all volunteer with no wild horse experts or veterinarians among them. They thought their cozy relationship with the BLM, whom they don’t criticize, would save ‘their’ horses. Instead record numbers of ‘their’ horses were rounded up in 2021 and while a few were adopted most will end up being killed. So much for sucking up to the BLM they failed at saving their ‘beloved’ horses.

Like disgraced DOI Sec’y Haaland, Trueblood has no problem with dirt bikers driving in the basin destroying what is suppose to be wild horse protected land. She spews the same tired excuses from the BLM but no true advocate wants dirt bikes or those that ride them anywhere near wild animals. There are plans to expand the basin for recreation and most know where that will eventually lead. Trueblood sides with the BLM claim this is just a few upgrades to pre-existing recreational area but that is always how it starts especially with this agency. If this is how non-profits in Colorado ‘protect’ wild horses comes as no surprise what is going on.

Further exploitation comes from Cindy Harms Wright who does private tours of the sand wash basin. What will she do for money when all the horses are rounded up? Between the darting of drugs and private tours it seems these ‘non-profits’ plan on making money on whatever captive horses are left. It’s no wonder Trueblood gives gushing praise to Pat Craig, owner of The Wildlife Sanctuary, who paid $14,000 for just one horse at auction at Canon City in 2021. Many have questions about his sanctuary which until his buying wild horses was a place for big cats on display. Trueblood has not seen the horses that Craig bought and is only going by what he says as to their well being. If this is how SWAT and others think they are saving wild horses, the horses may be ‘saved’ but their wild will be gone.

The best investigation so far about the deaths at Canon City comes from Kati Weiss and CBS Denver not from any wild horse advocate group.

Click here to listen and read the report

In the midst of this crisis of death is a conference about using drugs on wildlife. The use of fertility drugs is pushed by all the non-profit horse ‘advocate’ groups but there is a dark side to this. They know, but rarely talk about, the use of Gonacon a sterilant used and preferred by BLM. If the BLM is using Gonacon why do all these non-profits keep claiming the use of PZP will save horses and stop roundups when none of that has happened? Simply put they’re lying to keep the gravy train of money going. The PZP program is what they point to so donors who fail to research them think of as a cause worth supporting. Millions of dollars have been given to these groups, run by women like Suzanne Roy of American Wild Horse Campaign, Neda Demayo of Return to Freedom, Kitty Block of HSUS, Ginger Kathrens of The Cloud Foundation and Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education.

Most donors, members and volunteers are women and most people in facebook groups are women. This is no coincidence that the wild horse issue is female dominated. Both men and women have been conditioned to trust women over men. Most people will assume men lie and cover up theft and fraud in a non-profit far more while giving the benefit of doubt, even with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to women doing that. Statistically women are just as likely to be liars, frauds, thieves and abusers as men.

The perception of innocence based on gender has been a key player in the downfall of the wild horses. Men and women, whether they recognize the bias or not, more trusting of a woman running a non-profit or claiming to rescue animals over a man. This bias makes them easy to manipulate. It’s no surprise the women donors believe the blatant lies easily discredited with 5 minutes on google. If a man were to make this observation he would be crucified in the post #MeToo era.

Instead of being down at Canon City demanding answers the likes of American Wild Horse Campaign, HSUS, ASPCA and Return to Freedom are down at a conference about shooting already compromised horses with drugs. They reap millions in grant money so they won’t be suing…or asking questions….or doing anything to save the horses other than a photo op for donors. The entire PZP program is designed to fool people into donating thinking this saves wild horses. It DOES NOT save wild horses in any way…..they are still rounded up and most are still sent to be killed.

If the Governor wants to save the 1000+ (maybe) wild horses left on the range he better take legal action instead of hugging the PZP pushers for a photo op.

Whether AWHC, RTF, SWAT, CLOUD, CAES, WHE, VETS FOR MUSTANGS, CANA, AWA, HSUS, ASPCA and all the others actually believe PZP will save wild horses or are corrupted by money and power (probably more likely) drugs do nothing for and everything against wild horses and all other wildlife subjected to this abuse. Ranchers benefit from the PZP pushers it’s time they admitted the truth.

credit western wild horse watchers

This is a fluid situation and hopefully more information will shed a light on the truth. More will be exposed as the truth comes out. Do not donate to groups lacking integrity and honesty. Money rewards disingenuous non-profits but has never saved wild horses. Keeping a few in a sanctuary is NOT saving wild horses in the wild and it’s a lie to say otherwise.

*UPDATED with more information click here

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Do you honestly think a governor who allows full term abortion really cares at all about wild horses...


McKenna Grace Fisher
McKenna Grace Fisher

~ Sister I was not aware of this Prison and Feedlot situation there in Colorado ~ I'm sadly not surprised they have no transparency ~ It's going to continue this way sis until we have leadership this will demand accountability ~ When that happens I don't know ~ I also do agree, where are all of these ORGS like HSUS, Mercy for Animals and others spearheading this to Washington DC and demanding to be heard ~ Look at what they're doing in New Jersey working to give Happy personhood ~ There are some folks really working hard ~ I am not judging but frustrated as this should be out there for all politicians to deal with ~ Thank you for…

Staci-lee Sherwood
Staci-lee Sherwood

It's another example where the govt refuses to answer because they're too busy covering up their crimes

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