A government program that pays people $1,000 to adopt a wild, untamed horse or burro has become a pipeline to slaughter, according to a 19-month long investigation by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). AWHC’s investigative report documents that at least 840 wild horses and burros have been sold to slaughter auctions since the program began in 2019.
The Adoption Incentive Program (“AIP”), implemented by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is being routinely defrauded by adopters who are pocketing the cash then dumping their animals at livestock auctions known as kill pens, which sell horses directly or via middlemen known as kill buyers to slaughter in Canada and Mexico.
The sale of wild horses for slaughter violates a Congressional prohibition, as well as a provision—enforceable under federal law—in the adoption contract under which adopters pledge not to sell their animals to any person or organization that intends to sell, resell, or give away such animals for slaughter or commercial processing.
“The findings of our report are irrefutable. The BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program has resulted in a flood of wild, untrained mustangs and burros into kill pens, sending hundreds—perhaps thousands—of these cherished animals into the slaughter pipeline,” said Amelia Perrin, AWHC’s Investigations Manager. “By failing to act immediately to eliminate the cash incentives that are driving the problem, the BLM is placing federally-protected wild horses and burros at risk of slaughter.”
Just this week, AWHC shared a heartbreaking video of the first day of wild horse roundups from the 800,000-acre Twin Peaks Herd in California.
A total of 231 terrified wild horses were captured and forced into trap pens. According to AWHC, approximately 10 horses and a mule escaped, and there was at least one death of a mare who broke her leg after it was caught in the panels during the chaos.
“Paying people cash to adopt wild, untrained animals is irresponsible. We knew it, we warned the BLM and now we’re seeing the deadly results,” Amelia Perrin, Investigations Manager for AWHC, told WAN. “Our investigation shows that hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent wild horses and burros have entered the slaughter pipeline as a result of this Adoption Incentive Program. It’s time to abandon the cash incentives and enact other reforms to protect wild horses and burros from slaughter.”
“We will spare you additional roundup footage here today, but it is worth noting that yesterday in the on-going roundup of the Triple B Complex in Nevada — a palomino stallion broke his neck — bringing the 10 day total to 8 deaths, including 2 foals. This operation is being conducted by the same contractors in Piceance — Cattoor Livestock,” said AWHC.
Among the report’s most shocking findings:
Groups of related individuals are adopting the maximum number of four horses or burros per person, then flipping the animals to kill pens once they receive title, in one case netting $82,000 in taxpayer-funded incentive payments.
Numerous individuals are allowed to continue adopting through the AIP for a second or even a third time despite disposing of their previous animals at kill pens.
The fraud is centered in states under the jurisdiction of the New Mexico BLM, which was embroiled in a slaughter scandal in the 1990s.