Wild Horses Go On BLM Adoption Tour, But Is Slaughter Looming?

Wild horses and burros will be up for grabs this year through an adoption program hosted by the Bureau of Land Management. Their next stop is April 1 and 2 in Ewing, Illinois. According to the Mt. Vernon Register News, that group will consist of about 40 wild horses available for adoption, ranging in age from one year to 5-years-old. Potential buyers will fill out an application and submit it to the BLM officials during the Friday preview hours. The horses are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Adoption fees are nominal: Only $125 for a horse less than three years of age and $25 for an older one.

Wild horses can be completely rehabilitated, but it takes some work. The BLM insists on proper facilities in order to bring one home. The article described the specifics.

“Adopters must be at least 18 years old and provide an enclosed facility with access to feed, water and shelter. Prospective adopters must have sturdy corrals that are at least 20-by-20 feet and 6-foot high for an adult horse, or no less than 5-foot high for horses younger than 18 months. The BLM is committed to the safety and health of the nation’s wild horses and burros and requires that adopted animals be transported in a stock-type, step-up trailer.”

The horses are Mustangs, descendants of Spanish-bred horses brought over by the Conquistadors. There is a mixture of Appaloosa, paint, and likely old Morgan horse blood from individuals who escaped the cavalry, and some other breeds too.

In an effort to promote the adoption of BLM horses, a group of four twenty-something men from Texas made a 2015 documentary film called Unbranded. They took a group of mustangs and after brief training, rode them 3,000 miles from the Mexican border to Canada. The six-month ride went through some of the nation’s wildest territory. The film effectively promoted the tractability and toughness of adopted wild mustangs. There were some compelling scenes of horses bucking furiously, and running away. In one heart-stopping scene, a mustang loses his footing and rolls and tumbles down a mountain. But he gets up and finishes the trip.

Unfortunately, not all stories of the BLM mustangs have happy endings. The biggest problem may be that the supply far outweighs the demand. Madeleine Pickens, billionaire and founder of horse sanctuary Mustang Monument, said in a March 21 open letter that wild horses are vulnerable to slaughter.

“The BLM recently released some startling statistics; they are spending $50,000 per horse for horses in their holding facilities and, by their own estimates, there are upwards of 100,000 horses that will require this expenditure for a lifetime of standing in a holding pen or pasture far from their home ranges. This dangerous situation foretells a much larger story.”

Ms. Pickens’ concerns are not unfounded. The Washington Times reported in October 2015 that kill buyer Tom Davis purchased over 1,700 horses and shipped them to slaughterhouses in Mexico. Taxpayers spent $140,000 to deliver truckloads of horses to Mr. Davis. He paid $10 for each horse and made as much as $154,000 in profits by selling them for slaughter.

Davis was never prosecuted. He admitted the horses went to slaughter, but said the BLM knew it, too.

“In selling so many loads of horses, BLM had to know that the horses would end up at the slaughterhouse.”

Pickens is concerned about history repeating itself.

“The table is being set for an argument that a massive euthanasia program is the only way we can solve the issue of overcrowding in the BLM’s wild horse holding facilities. The BLM, through their continued stalling and failure to make any progress in the day-to-day management of our wild horses, is tacitly endorsing the notion that slaughter may be the only option.”

Budget issues are a big concern for the BLM. The Wildlife Society reported that a March 2016 hearing covered the President’s funding requests for 2017. The burgeoning population of wild horses and burros was a topic, and one solution offered up was to spay the mares in their holding pens.

The American Wild Horse Preservation campaign showed a graphic video on their Facebook page, saying that this type of surgery is very dangerous and not a viable solution.

Meanwhile, the BLM will spend this spring hauling a small percentage of the captive mustangs, in an attempt to get them adopted. They have scheduled online adoption days as well. Future stops on the tour for adoptable wild horses include:

04/19 – 05/03/2016: Internet

04/29 – 04/30/2016: Knoxville, Tennessee

05/06 – 05/07/2016: Jacksonville, Florida (EMM trained)

05/07/2016: Ewing, Illinois

05/20 – 05/21/2016: Cassopolis, Michigan

05/20 – 05/21/2016: Lorton, Virginia

Will the BLM find more generous landowners like Madeleine Pickens, with space to take on some herds? Or will the mustangs once again find themselves caught in the slaughter pipeline?

Horses are shipped out of the country for slaughter, as it is illegal in the United States. This Inquisitr article describes how horse rescue groups are working on alternatives to slaughter.

[Image via Dennis Donohue/Shutterstock]