A total of 8,045 wild horses and burros were adopted, sold or transferred to other government agencies over the past year, the Bureau of Land Management announced this week.
The BLM trumpeted that the Fiscal Year 2023 total was the second-highest total in the last 25 years and that it would save $181 million in taxpayer costs from holding the captured horses and burros off-range.
A win for the agency is not necessarily a win for those wild horses and burros, however.
When title is passed to a new owner, a wild horse or burro loses what little federal protection it had. Horses can find themselves in abusive situations or even well-meaning homes that simply cannot afford a horse. Failed adoptions can result in wild horses or burros ending up at auction where kill buyers are waiting.
A key part of what BLM sees as a success story: its Adoption Incentive Program (AIP), which gives adopters $500 within 60 days of adoption and another $500 within 60 days of receiving title (about one year later).
Wild horses and burros adopted through the AIP accounted for about 36% of horses and burros (2,908) placed into new homes during Fiscal Year 2023, according to the agency.
We believe that paying people to adopt them devalues wild horses and burros, and we and others have shown that some unscrupulous adopters are keeping horses until receiving title, then auctioning them off.
We have called for: AIP to be halted, at least until the end of a thorough outside investigation, the elimination of most cash bonuses, and for safeguards to be put into place that better protect wild horses and burros from falling into the slaughter pipeline.
Return to Freedom has been a strong proponent of replacing most all cash incentives with vouchers to help with needs like veterinary care or training. We also believe a well-researched database of unsafe adopters should be created to prevent them from participating in the program.
If the adoption program is to continue, we believe more must be done to ensure that wild horses and burros that once roamed freely on our public lands are protected from bad homes and the foreign slaughter pipeline.