In 1950 Velma Johnston was driving behind a stock truck and noticed blood dripping out of the back. She followed the truck to a shipping yard where captured mustangs where gathered for later transport to a pet food factory. Through investigation she learned that wild horses where being legally harvested by commercial mustangers, licensed by the Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency charged with the oversight and protection of range lands. Mustangs were hunted using trucks, airplanes (equipped with sirens), and shotguns, killed outright or shipped for slaughter. Angered by what she saw, Velma began a one woman crusade to save the wild horses.
Velma B. Johnston crowned Wild Horse Annie by a critic, adopted this name with relish and used it to promote the cause of wild horses. Through her creative use of the media, school children write-in campaigns to Congressmen, and Federal lobbying, The Wild Horse Annie Bill (About The Wild Horse Annie Act) was passed by Congress in 1959, outlawing the use of airplanes to hunt down wild horses on federal lands.
All during the 1960's she continued to lobby for the further protection of wild horses on all western lands. With the help of people such as Hope Ryden, more write-in campaigns, and articles in national magazines, a bill, The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, was passed and signed into law by President Nixon in 1971. That law stated:
Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American People...
It is the policy of Congress that the wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered, in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public land. More> >