I.G.H.A. / HorseAid's Bureau of Land Management News

In his Own Words: A BLM Official Responds...

(The following was sent by Tom Pogacnik, chief of the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program, in response to the Associated Press report on the BLM's wild horse adoption program.)

The recent Associated Press article on the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) wild horse adoption program gave readers the false impression that many of the animals adopted each year are sent to slaughter. This is just flat-out wrong.

The article does a terrible disservice to the thousands of people who invest their time, money and heart to provide these animals with good homes. It is rife with inaccuracies and relies heavily on speculation that cannot be verified. It also attributes comments to me that I did not make.

The BLM is committed to doing all that it can to ensure that wild horses are adopted by people who provide humane care. That is why BLM will not issue legal title for an animal until an adopter can prove that he or she has taken good care of the animal for at least a year.

During that time, the BLM tracks the animal through computerized records and spot checks adopters. The BLM has regulations that prohibit the sale of the animal, prohibit its use in rodeos, and prohibit neglectful treatment of the animal. The federal government prosecutes people who violate these laws.

For example, in the years 1985 to1995, the BLM investigated numerous possible violations related to the wild horse and burro program resulting in 125 convictions, despite the fact that these are often difficult cases to prove.

After one year of humanely caring for an animal, an adopter can apply for and receive legal title to a wild horse or burro. Once title is issued, the animal is private property. The BLM does not track horses and burros after title is issued.

However, if the BLM discovers that an adopter intends to sell the horse for slaughter, title will not be issued. The one-year waiting period serves as a deterrent to people who want to immediately profit by selling their titled animals.

The cost of caring for an animal for a year runs between $500 and $1,000 or higher, depending on the part of the country, making it economically impractical for people to immediately profit after title is issued.

Despite these safeguards, do some wild horses that are titled and no longer under federal protection wind up in slaughterhouses? Obviously, some do. However, none of the animals cited in the article were federally protected. These animals were privately owned.

It is typical for most domestic horses to pass to new owners several times through sales and auctions throughout their lives. This does not mean that these animals end up at slaughterhouses. There is simply no data to support AP's claim that the majority of wild horses are trucked to slaughter.

Moreover, the assertion that I concurred with AP's claim is nonsense. I made no such statement and would not entertain that kind of speculation.

In addition, the article implied that BLM employees routinely profit by adopting wild horses and burros. The BLM does not give preferential treatment to employees in adopting wild horses and burros. They must abide by the same laws and regulations as everyone else.

Many BLM wild horse and burro specialists entered the program because of their love for the animals. The reporter spoke to several BLM employees who have adopted animals and have had title to them for years who are dedicated to their animals' care.

Unfortunately, those stories were not included in the AP article.

The BLM works hard to strike a balance between ensuring the humane care of these animals and respecting private property rights. Should BLM be responsible for these animals throughout their lives and not just until title is passed? That is a decision for lawmakers.

However, more than 150,000 animals have been adopted since the program first began in 1973. The cost to taxpayers to have the federal government care for these animals throughout their lives would be enormous.

Wild horses and burros have no natural predators and reproduce at rate of about 18 percent a year. The forage and water on the public range, which these animals share with wildlife and domestic livestock, cannot sustain unchecked horse and burro populations. Without intervention, the result for many animals would be a slow, gruesome death from starvation and dehydration.

Adoption is the best tool the BLM has for providing for the humane care of animals removed from the range. The BLM is careful to screen all adopters to make sure they have no convictions for inhumane treatment to animals and to ensure their facilities meet safety standards.

The adoption program is extremely popular with the public. We know that many adopters develop lasting relationships with their animals because we see them year after year as volunteers and at wild horse and burro shows throughout the country. These owners take great pride in their efforts to tame and train these wild animals.

The AP story paints a distorted picture; it is a disservice to the thousands of Americans who dedicate themselves to caring for wild horses and burros.


Thomas Pogacnik,

Chief of the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro Program

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