The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did little to follow up in making sure wild horses went to good homes
The nation’s largest buyer of wild horses repeatedly lied to federal officials and sent roughly 1,700 mustangs to the slaughterhouse, according to a scathing report issued Friday finding significant oversight lapses within a Bureau of Land Management program that is supposed to provide the horses with good homes.
Between 2008 and 2012, La Jara rancher and livestock hauler Tom Davis bought 1,794 horses from the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, which manages tens of thousands of mustangs that roam across the West and are, to many, potent symbols of the land’s unbridled majesty. The next largest buyer purchased only 325.
When investigators from the U.S. Department of the Interior‘s Office of Inspector General confronted Davis about the purchases and asked him how many of those horses had been re-sold for slaughter, he told them, “Probably close to all of them.”
According to the report, Davis sold many of the horses to buyers near the Mexican border. Investigators found records indicating those same buyers transported large numbers of horses across the border to slaughterhouses in Mexico — though, because local inspectors who certified the transports often didn’t actually inspect the horses, the inspector general investigation could not verify that they were the same horses.
Davis told investigators that he assumed the wild horses would be slaughtered, saying there was only “one place to go … to the kill plant.”
“I’d rather see me send them down there than I would see the Government send them down there,” Davis told investigators, according to the report.
Investigators first began looking into Davis’s dealings after news reports, including some published in The Denver Post, raised questions about where he sent the horses he bought.
Since 1978, when the BLM first implemented a sales program as a way to control herd sizes, it has been against federal law and policy to send wild horses sold through the program to slaughter.
In purchasing the horses, Davis had to tell federal officials that he would not re-sell them for slaughter. According to the report, Davis told BLM marketing specialists that he was selling the horses to good homes, either to people wanting “pasture pets” or people hoping to graze the animals on their lands for tax breaks. He repeatedly refused to name his buyers, and BLM officials apparently did little to follow up on where the horses went…(CONTINUED)