Photo taken at Return to Freedom's Lompoc, Calif., sanctuary by Tony Stromberg.
In March 2019, the Bureau of Land Management launched an Adoption Incentive Program, an attempt to increase adoptions of wild horses and burros by giving adopters $500 within 60 days of adoption and another $500 within 60 days of receiving title (about one year later). BLM’s goal is to reduce off-range holding costs. According to the agency, it costs an average of $1,850 per year to care for a wild horse or burro in a corral.
The Adoption Incentive Program has raised serious concerns about whether increased numbers of equines are being auctioned for slaughter or ending up in abusive homes or with owners who can’t afford their care after title is passed. However, the program is a success -- in the agency’s eyes -- for having helped BLM to a 15-year adoption high of more than 6,000 horses and burros in its first year and “saving $170 million” in lifetime costs for those animals,
Return to Freedom has never been a proponent of the adoption program, but we understand that it will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
One of RTF's founding principles is to elevate the status of America's wild horses and burros. We believe that paying people to adopt devalues wild horses and burros. If the adoption program is to continue, we believe that wild horses should not be adopted for less than $1,000 or that -- if BLM’s objective for the incentive program is genuinely to support adopters by assisting with training or “start-up” costs -- BLM could create a program in which adopters pay $1,000 upfront for the wild horse or burro, then receive a $500 voucher to pay as a reimbursement for training once they have provided proof of progress or vet costs and responsible ownership.
In our experience, if someone cannot afford $1,000 for a horse and initial care costs, they really are not in a position to financially support a horse. Sadly, even the most well-intentioned adopters find themselves unable to sustain the horse.