The Bureau of Land Management on Monday announced steps it says will do more to secure the health and safety of adopted wild horses and burros, but which fall short of the outside investigation and end of cash bonuses called for by Return to Freedom.
The changes to the Adoption Incentive Program follow a May investigative story by The New York Timesthat found adopters were pocketing the $1,000 incentive and then selling wild horses to slaughter.
To dates, 8,250 wild horses and burros into adoptive homes through the Adoption Incentive Program, according to BLM.
Following the publication of The Times’ story, Return to Freedom, other advocacy organizations and members of Congress called for an investigation of the program.
RTF called not for a BLM internal investigation but an investigation by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General, for the program to be suspended and, BLM is to continue the program, for incentives to be paid in the form of vouchers for training or veterinary care — not cash.
RTF feels strongly that people should be able to show that they’re financially prepared to own a horse. The adoption fee should be higher to reflect that.
The modifications to the program announced Monday fall short of an investigation from outside the Wild Horse and Burro Program, which will continue to pay adopters $500 within 60 days of adoption of an untrained wild horse and burro and $500 within 60 days of titling the animal.
Among the changes announced on Monday:
–“Continue to work with partners and other stakeholders to evaluate potential improvements to the Adoption Incentive Program, consistent with relevant laws and regulations.
–“Ensure all adoption applications and agreements clearly and consistently state that the adopter must provide humane care and require the adopter to certify that they will not knowingly sell or transfer ownership of an adopted animal to any person or organization that intends to resell, trade or give away the animals for slaughter or processing into commercial products.
–“Improve the screening of adoption applicants to better ensure that ineligible individuals are identified and excluded from participating in the adoption program, consistent with relevant laws and regulations.
–“Conduct an inspection of wild horses and burros adopted through the Adoption Incentive Program within six months of adoption date, rather than 12 months.
–“Have a veterinarian certify all title applications for wild horses and burros adopted through the Adoption Incentive Program in order to receive the incentive payment.
–“Increase posting of warning notices at livestock sale facilities, highlighting criminal penalties for illegally selling un-titled wild horses and burros.
–“Continue to refer cases to relevant U.S. Attorneys for potential violations under 18 USC 1001 for making false or misleading statements on adoption and title applications and agreements.
–“Evaluate changes to federal regulations that strengthen protections for adopted wild horses and burros.”