Photo taken at Return to Freedom's Lompoc, Calif., sanctuary by Tony Stromberg.
In March 2019, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 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).
The Adoption Incentive Program (AIP) has raised serious concerns from Return to Freedom and others about whether increased numbers of wild horses and burros are ending up with owners winding up in auction yards and the foreign slaughter pipeline.
Yet, in the BLM's eyes, the program is a success for having helped boost adoption numbers to 23,909 adoptions from 2019-22 -- up from 12,218 over the four years prior -- in an effort to reduce the cost of holding captured equines in off-range government corrals or on leased pastures.
In 2021 and 2022, BLM announced tweaks to the program. These included raising the adoption fee from $25 to $125 and requiring compliance inspections within six months of adoption rather than 12.
The changes fall short of calling a halt to the program, at least until the end of a thorough investigation, ending most cash bonuses and creating real safeguards are in place to protect America’s mustangs and burros.
One of RTF's founding principles has been to elevate the status of America's wild horses and burros. We believe that paying people to adopt them devalues wild horses and burros. However, if the adoption program is to continue, we believe more must be done to ensure that wild horses and burros that once roamed freely on our public lands are protected from bad homes and the foreign slaughter pipeline.
We have called for: AIP to be halted, at least until the end of a thorough outside investigation, the elimination of most cash bonuses, and for safeguards to be put into place that better protect wild horses and burros that once freely roamed our public lands from falling into the slaughter pipeline.
Return to Freedom has been a strong proponent of replacing most all cash incentives with vouchers to help with needs like veterinary care or training. (Cash incentives can be very helpful for proven nonprofit rescue and sanctuary organizations in good standing. Sanctuaries and rescues often take more than one or two animals and could benefit from compensation, which covers transportation and feed costs.)
We also believe a well-researched database of unsafe adopters should be created to prevent them from participating in the program.
In the spring and summer of 2022, BLM held stakeholder meetings with Return to Freedom and others to consider non-cash incentives and other changes to the program. No changes were made in response to those meetings. Nor have changes been made in response to October 2022 recommendations, including replacing cash payouts with vouchers, from the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.
Please join us in calling on Congress to provide proper oversight of BLM by demanding that BLM pause its Adoption Incentive Program while a thorough investigation is conducted and, if the program is to continue, make necessary changes put into place to properly safeguard America’s wild horses and burros.