House unanimously approves Dye’s bill to establish a wild horse inmate program in Connell

The state House of Representatives voted 95-0 Monday on a bill by Rep. Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, that would direct the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to study and develop a plan for a wild horse training and farrier program at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.

House Bill 1543 is patterned after the Arizona Department of Corrections’ Wild Horse and Burro Training and Adoption Program in Florence, Arizona. Dye toured the facilities in the fall of 2019 where about 30 inmates were working to train wild mustangs that had been captured from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public rangelands in western Arizona.

“The program gives inmates hands-on training in the equestrian field, helps them to build self-confidence as they care for the animals, and provides the opportunity for employable skills they can use upon release. The recidivism rate for those inmates who have participated in the program and served their time is low,” said Dye. “It also helps the Bureau of Land Management manage the horse population on public lands and keeps the ranges healthy.”

Dye first proposed the program in Washington state during the 2020 legislative session through House Bill 2579. The measure passed the House and Senate unanimously. However, because it contained a small fiscal note, it was among 147 bills vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee in an effort to save $235 million in the 2020 supplemental operating budget to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dye said the veto turned out for the best because it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to complete the work needed during the pandemic.

“Through this bill, we have more than a study. We have a plan forward to develop this program,” said Dye.

The bill would also require the plan to evaluate training methods, facilities, property, and financial opportunities for the program. In preparation for the program, DOC would consult with BLM, the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Walla Walla Community College, Washington State University, federal and state agencies, local governments, and experts in wild horse management and training. If the bill becomes law, a report assessing the implementation needs would be required by Nov. 1, 2023.

“It creates an opportunity for inmates to redeem their lives and helps them learn a better way of life for them and their families,” added Dye. “We want those people who serve time to be able to positively reintegrate back into society, and have the confidence to go forward without making the mistakes of their past. This program sets them up on a course to be successful when they leave the prison system.”

The measure now goes to the Senate for further consideration.


Washington State House Republican Communications