New Evidence Released Documenting Fraud, Abuse, and Negligence in Fed'l Wild Horse Adoption Program

Sunlit herd of wild horses on open land.
Sunlit herd of wild horses on open land. American Wild Horse Campaign

Newsdate: Thursday, May 20, 2021 - 7:35 am

A report released by the nation’s leading wild horse organization provides new evidence of rampant abuse, neglect and sale for slaughter of wild horses and burros as a result of a federal adoption incentive program. The program was first exposed by a New York Times exposé (5/15/21) as a pipeline to slaughter for truckloads of these federally-protected animals.

Wild horses lined up in BLM holding pen.

Wild horses lined up in BLM holding pen

Advocates called on Secretary Haaland to place a moratorium on wild horse and burro roundups and re-evaluate the plan fueling efforts to dispose of captured animals in illegal transfer for slaughter.
© 2016 by Oregon BLM New window.

The report (available upon request), provided to Congress and Interior Secretary Debra Haaland, was prepared by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) with assistance from Skydog Sanctuary, Evanescent Mustang Rescue and Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. It follows a plea by the groups to Secretary Haaland to suspend and investigate the  Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Program’s Adoption Incentive Program (AIP) program.

The groups also called on Secretary Haaland to place a moratorium on wild horse and burro roundups and re-evaluate the previous Administration’s mass roundup plan, which is fueling efforts to dispose of captured wild horses and burros and resulting in their illegal transfer for slaughter.

“The evidence we’ve uncovered clearly shows that the Adoption Incentive Program is resulting in the rampant abuse, neglect and slaughter of America’s cherished wild horses and burros,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “The Interior Department must immediately shut down this taxpayer-subsidized slaughter scheme and launch a full investigation that will hold agency officials and adopters accountable for violating the federal prohibition on wild horse and burro slaughter.”

The taxpayer-funded program pays individuals $1,000 apiece to adopt a wild, untamed horse or burro.

As reported by the New York Times and documented by the AWHC  investigation, adopters are pocketing the $1,000 payment for unhandled wild horses and burros then “flipping” the animals to slaughter auction after the payment clears their bank accounts.

The report documents more than 80 titled BLM wild horses and burros, and over 100 BLM wild horses and burros for whom titles were not available, at eight different livestock auctions known to sell horses to kill buyers across five different states. Additionally, the report documents disturbing abuse and severe neglect of wild horses and burros by AIP adopters who were unwilling or unqualified to provide proper care.

Among the AIP adopter neglect and abuse cases uncovered: 

  • A female wild horse was found upside down at the home of an AIP adopter with her head folded back with a severe neck injury. The injury prevented her from being able to stand or lay upright. The horse was put out of her misery” that day.
  • A mustang was found emaciated in a 10x10 dog pen standing in 5 inches of mud at the adopter’s property.
  • An emaciated wild horse was documented with body sores at the adopter’s home. The BLM at the time of the FOIA, had not removed the horse from the adopter's care.
  • Multiple instances of starving animals in extreme body conditions.

Although the adopters sign a contract agreeing not to sell horses or burros to a person or organization for slaughter and to provide adequate care, the agency is not enforcing those contracts and in some cases is actively relaying to adopters there is no limit to what they can do with the animals once they receive title to them.

Groups of related individuals are even adopting four horses or burros each (the BLM’s per-adopter limit), then dumping them at kill pens and collecting $30,000 or more in incentive payments and sale profits.

In the wake of the NY Times revelations, the American Wild Horse Campaign also launched an online petition to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland calling for the immediate suspension of the AIP, an investigation into the program, criminal prosecution of adopters who violated their adoption contracts by selling horses for slaughter, termination of BLM employees who knowingly placed wild horses and burros into high-risk situations, and redirection in funding toward humane and scientific fertility control instead of the failed system of rounding up and penning of these iconic symbols of the American West.

American Wild Horse Campaign(AWHC) is the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

Press release by Grace Kuhn

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