Reforms To Bureau Of Land Management’s Wild Horse Adoption Incentives Program Is Leading Horses To Slaughter

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) announced last week that the latest reforms by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to its controversial Adoption Incentive Program (AIP) still fall short because they do not eliminate the cash incentives that are sending hundreds of wild horses and burros into the slaughter pipeline.

“Despite the recommendation of its own national advisory board, the BLM is still failing to eliminate the cash incentives that have resulted in a steady flow of federally protected wild horses and burros being sold into kill pens that sell equines for slaughter,” Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC, said in a statement sent to WAN. “BLM’s plan to conduct mass removals this year only amplifies the danger and the BLM should instead significantly ramp up its efforts to manage these animals humanely on the range using fertility control vaccines.”

The AIP, which pays people to adopt up to four wild, unhandled horses or burros at $1,000 per animal, was exposed by an AWHC investigation as a pipeline to slaughter. The investigation prompted an explosive 2021 report documenting that scores of wild horses and burros were being sent to slaughter auctions after adopters pocketed the incentive payments, which come in two installments: $500 when the horse or burro is adopted and $500 after the title is transferred a year later.

In the last 15 months, AWHC has identified over 500 wild horses and burros in kill pens and has confirmed that the vast majority of these equines were adopted through the AIP. The organization’s investigation has also identified numerous groups of related individuals who are adopting the maximum of four horses or burros per person and collecting thousands more in tax-funded cash incentives, then selling the animals in kill pens as soon as the incentive payments clear their bank accounts.

According to AWHC, the changes the BLM is planning to enact do not go far enough in addressing the problem. As one example, the agency will now conduct compliance inspections of wild horses and burros adopted through the AIP within six months of adoption and require a veterinarian or BLM-authorized officer to sign titling eligibility paperwork. This does nothing to address the adopters who are immediately flipping the horses or burros to kill pens after receiving the title after one year and cashing in on the incentive payments.

Additionally, making a lump sum payment of $1,000 per animal, up to $4,000 per adopter per year, does not eliminate the profit incentive that is driving the problem. The increase in adoption fees from $25 to $125 is not sufficient to offset this profit incentive. None of the changes will stop groups of related individuals from adopting large numbers of animals and reaping big profits in cash incentives and slaughter auction fees.

In 2021, the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recommended 8-1 that the agency pursue alternative, non-cash incentives to ensure a high standard of welfare for adopted wild horses and burros. The BLM already issues non-cash vouchers for gelding and animal replacement.

Congress has also expressed concern about the AIP. In June 2021, U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dina Titus (D-NV), Steve Cohen(D-TN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and 25 of their House colleagues sent a letter to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland requesting that her agency suspend the AIP. The House Interior Appropriations Committee also directed the BLM to strengthen adoption contracts to address any weaknesses that would jeopardize the welfare of these animals.

In July, AWHC was among concerned organizations and individuals that filed suit in federal district court claiming that the agencies violated multiple federal laws in the creation and implementation of the BLM’s controversial program for wild horses and burros.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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