Washington, D.C. – A government program that pays people $1,000 to adopt a wild, untamed horse or burro has become a pipeline to slaughter for these federally-protected animals, according to a 19-month-long investigation by the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC). Issued today, AWHC’s investigative report documents that at least 840 wild horses and burros have been sold at 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 for 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.”
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 a second or even a third time despite disposing of their previous animals in 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.
AWHC’s initial investigative findings prompted a May 2021 New York Times investigative report on the program. AWHC’s new report—based on records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and paperwork obtained from auctions via rescue groups—documents that the extent of the problem is far greater than previously reported. AWHC notes that its findings represent the tip of the iceberg as many BLM horses and burros are directly shipped across the border without being advertised for resale by the auctions. Since the Times report, the agency has taken inadequate steps to modify the program. Meanwhile, wild horses and burros continue to be sold at slaughter auctions, including 20 wild mustangs being sold at a kill pen in Eaton, Colorado this week.
“We’re calling for BLM to immediately eliminate cash incentives and make additional adoption program reforms, including strengthening adoption contract language, improved compliance inspections, background checks on all adopters, and stricter restrictions on the number of animals adopted. These changes are critically needed to stop the flow of wild horses and burros into the slaughter pipeline,” said Perrin.
Full Investigative Report Here
About the American Wild Horse Campaign
The 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.