The Sale Authority Change, The Adoption Incentive and Private Corrals at Bruneau, Idaho
by Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Because it has been in such short supply this past year, I am going to start this article with the good. On Wednesday we heard that the BLM had rescinded a 2018 Wild Horse and Burro sales policy change that had made the possibility of huge numbers of wild horses and burros being sold to kill buyers and eventually ending up at slaughter a virtual certainty. Under this 2018 policy, a single buyer could purchase up to 24 wild horses or burros per day with no limitations, no questions asked, no waiting period. The horses and burros were sold at $10 per head. We do not know how many of our wild horses and burros were sold under this policy, while the Bureau of Land Management, who is charged to manage and protect them, looked the other way. The only way to find out the actual numbers, which we assume will be in the thousands, is by a Freedom of Information Act Request, but the BLM is now taking months to release information to members of the public filing requests.
The good news here is that now this policy is no longer in effect and now the BLM is back to following its 2014 policy that limits buyers to purchasing only up to 4 wild horses or burros every six months unless they have special permission from the BLM’s Washington D.C. office. Buyers also have to sign a form that states that they will not sell the purchased wild horses or burros to slaughter.
I want to thank every person who called their Senators and Representatives, and the members of Congress who worked hard to change this cruel, inhumane and deadly policy. Your voices were heard, and you do make a difference.
I am now going to move onto the bad. The BLM has issued a press release last week that proudly announces a new financial incentive that encourages people to adopt wild horses and burros. Now, the adoption fee has been lowered from $125 to $25, and “qualified adopters” are eligible to receive $500 within 60 days of the adoption date, and then another $500 within 60 days of titling which is normally after one year.
This is one of the worst ideas that the Bureau of Land Management has managed to come up with in recent years. Previously, the adoption fee of $125 and the requirement of having to keep the wild horses or burro for one year before receiving title were used as deterrents for people who just wanted to turn around and make money selling them to slaughter. Now, with the cost of any upkeep for the year of the horse or burro paid for, this “adoption” becomes an irresistible money making opportunity for people who will keep them just long enough to get their $1000 and then sell them and make even more money by selling them by the pound to kill buyers. It will also encourage people who have absolutely no business caring for a horse or any animal at all taking them and this will cause even more pain and suffering for these living beings who through no fault of their own have already lost their families, their homes and their freedom. The BLM just wants to get rid of the wild horses and burros and doesn’t really care if they end up at slaughter, just so long as they are removed from our public lands and from the holding facilities.
Unfortunately the ugliest part of this story concerns wild horses held at the private facility in Bruneau, Idaho. In 2017 when the BLM was rounding up and removing wild horses from Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, they shipped most of the wild horses to private holding facilities instead of BLM facilities that the public could go to and observe and adopt the horses. In previous roundups, the wild horses were shipped to BLM facilities in Rock Springs, Wyoming or Canon City, Colorado where the public would be able to view and to adopt these horses. However, this facility is privately owned and the BLM only allows members of the public to tour the facility and observe the horses one time per year for two hours. I went on this “tour” on June 6, 2018. I had to sit on a flatbed with hay bales on it and was driven around the pens that held the wild horses. I was told that there had been a lot of foals born, sometimes 20 per day in the previous weeks, but was not told how many or if any had died. There had been 593 wild mares shipped to this facility operated by J.R. Simplot after the Checkerboard Roundup in October, 2017.
On July 19 the BLM issued a press release that the Bruneau facility was closed due to a strangles outbreak. Strangles is an extremely contagious disease that can very often prove fatal to young foals. When members of the public wanted to find out how many foals had died and how, they were told to file a Freedom of Information Act, which our Vice President did. She received the information at the end of November, 2018. The facts revealed were extremely disturbing. There were 101 stillborn fetuses, and 34 dead foals. Over 22% of the foals born to the Checkerboard mares died. In addition there were 48 mares “found dead in their pens.”
Here is the report:
In the wild, these horses had been healthy, disease free, and capable of carrying their foals to term. This private holding facility is a house of horrors, a deadly prison for wild horses. Instead of caring for the wild horses, as they are paid to do, they are killing them and covering it up. This facility should be shut down immediately and should never house our precious wild horses again. This is the ugliest truth, that the BLM does not want you to know.