The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced plans to improve protections for wild horse adoptions after an exposé showed wild animals adopted for $1,000 through a federal incentive program were being sold to slaughter.

But the planned changes won’t be enough to keep horses safe, said two animal welfare groups with active lawsuits against the BLM over the program. 

Earlier this year, a New York Times exposéacting on investigative information submitted nonprofit the American Wild Horse campaign — revealed that wild horses adopted through the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program was paying $1,000 per adopted horse to supposedly loving new families that have instead been sold to slaughterhouses by the adopters who vowed to protect them after they received their stipends.

Following the report, the BLM announced it will start requiring additional compliance visits post adoption, with increased screening and scrutiny of potential adopters; increased warnings to sale barns about the risk of illegally selling wild horses and burros, including posting warning notices at 750 livestock sale facilities; inspecting all animals within six months of adoption, instead of the current 12 month period; and requiring veterinarians to certify all applications before adopters receive their $1,000 adoption incentive, according to The Associated Press.

But the AWHC and Friends of Animals, both of which have active lawsuits against the BLM over the program, said those changes aren’t enough.

Mike Harris, with Friends of Animals, said the nonprofit hopes to speak soon with the BLM about the additional changes he says need to take place.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Harris told Lady Freethinker. “But they shouldn’t be offering financial incentives, and they certainly shouldn’t be adopting horses in large numbers to any individual person.”

Harris said he isn’t sure what the BLM’s proposal to enhance vetting of potential adopters entails, given the vague wording in the announcement. 

“We’re not really hearing that much information, and the roundup schedule is in full blast,” he said.

The AWHC, which published a detailed analysis of each point, said the announced changes show that the BLM “continues to underestimate the scale of the problem, while failing to conduct a thorough and  transparent investigation of the program.”

The alleged shortcomings include that inspecting adopted animals six months after adoption “rather than” 12 months won’t ensure the animals aren’t sold to slaughter after adopters receive title after a year, and also that the BLM’s review of adopters applies only to those who already have adopted — not to the new adopters, who may possibly have backgrounds involving animal cruelty or connections to animal slaughter. 

The AWHC wants to see additional changes, including an end to the cash incentives to adopt wild horses, a limit on the number of animals adopted to the same address unless authorized by a thorough review and approval process, and background checks for new adopters. 

“The changes the BLM is vowing to implement will be rendered meaningless without the elimination of the cash incentives for the adoption of untamed, wild mustangs and burros,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. “By underestimating the scale of the problem and failing to implement the one change that would actually make a difference, the BLM is allowing these federally-protected animals to continue to be sold into the slaughter pipeline.”

Lady Freethinker thanks the more than 38,000 people who have signed our petition demanding justice for these wild, iconic, and innocent animals. We will continue to monitor this situation and push for increased protections that will lead to meaningful and enforceable change.