Wild Horse and Burro Issues Page: 4 of 6
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The adoption process stems in part from past concerns that some adopted animals
were slaughtered. Approximately 20,000 horses were placed with large scale adopters,
without fee, from 1984-September 1988; hundreds of them died of starvation or
dehydration during the one year probationary period and thousands were slaughtered soon
after title passed.3 Public protest led BLM to resume charging an adoption fee. Further
changes followed reports in 1997 that wild horses were sold to slaughterhouses and
charges, denied by BLM, of related misconduct by some employees. Changes required
adopters to certify that they have "no intent" to sell their animals for slaughter; established
a monitoring program with slaughterhouses and federal inspectors to return untitled
animals intended for slaughter and retain records on titled, slaughtered animals; prohibited
individuals from using power of attorney from others to adopt animals, and increased
compliance inspections of untitled adopted animals. Also, the Wild Horse and Burro
Advisory Board was reestablished, although whether it reflects the range of wild horse
and burro interests is a matter of dispute.
A lingering question, despite court reviews and the changes in law in 2004, is
whether wild horses and burros are protected from slaughter once adopted. From August
1, 2004, to July 18, 2005, 597 titled horses were sent to U.S. slaughterhouses. The BLM
asserts that it has no authority over a titled animal because the 1971 Act states that wild
horses and burros "or their remains shall lose their status as wild free-roaming horses and
burros and shall no longer be considered as falling within the purview of this
chapter-upon passage of title..."(16 U.S.C. 1333(d)(1)). The agency seeks to protect
horses and burros through efforts to place them with qualified adopters and subsequent
monitoring for one year. By contrast, animal advocacy groups contend that the legislative
history and intent of the 1971 Act show that titled animals were to be protected
indefinitely from slaughter. They further note that adopters are to certify that they have
"no intent" to sell their wild horse or burro "for slaughter or bucking stock, or for
processing into commercial products..." Controversy over this attestation has centered
on how long it should last and the extent to which it can be enforced in court.
Table 1. Wild Horse and Burro Removals and Ado tions
FY1999 FY2000 FY2001 FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005
R A R A R A R A R A R A R A
Horses 4,983 5,745 7,004 5,080 11,764 6,054 10,822 5,987 8,865 4,982 9,252 5,699 10,650 5,193
Burros 1,095 1,033 1,627 1,122 1,513 1,576 1,207 1,759 1,216 1,183 647 945 373 508
Total 6,078 6,778 8,631 6,202 13,277 7,630 12,029 7,746 10,081 6,165 9,899 6,644 11,023 5,701
Notes and Sources: "R" indicates the number of animals removed, while "A" indicates the number of
animals adopted. The information is from BLM, including BLM's Public Land Statistics.
Sale. As a result of stepped up removals, large numbers of excess animals for
which there is no demand for adoption are being held in facilities (see below). In this
context, in 2004 Congress directed BLM to sell excess animals that were older or
deemed unadoptable. While support for the sales is strong among livestock groups and
others, animal activists and other groups question its desirability. According to the
s U.S. General Accounting Office, Improvements Needed in Federal Wild Horse Program,
GAO/RCED-90-110 (Washington, DC: August, 1990). Hereafter "1990 GAO Report."
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Vincent, Carol H. Wild Horse and Burro Issues, report, December 9, 2005; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc820870/m1/4/: accessed February 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.