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32,000 Adopted Horses, Burros Are Missing in Action at BLM (AP: Reprint 1997)


PM Sick Filly PVC March 25 2014

Government: People who want the formerly wild animals are supposed to wait a year to get title before they can be sold. But enforcement is lax and many end up slaughtered.

Cross-posted from the LA Times for educational purposes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal program to protect wild horses and burros has lost track of more than 32,000 animals placed in adoption, allowing people to neglect, abuse and even slaughter some of them for profit.

In addition, officials of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management may have falsified records to cover up the problem and ignored warnings that thousands of adopters have not been checked and have not received titles to their animals, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.

“Records are systematically falsified and no one wants to know about it,” said Reed Smith, a former BLM administrator who retired from the New Mexico office in 1995.

In 1971, Congress enacted a law to protect wild horses and burros and place excess animals for adoption. In 1978, to better prevent their slaughter or sale, it created a system of legal titles: The adopter would keep each animal for one year, comply with a health check, then get title.

Until the title is issued, the animal would remain government property.

Using the BLM’s computerized records maintained in Denver and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the AP found that 32,774 of all adopted animals–or 20%–remain untitled. Legally, those horses and burros are still federal property.

The adopted horses were given to more than 18,000 different people.

Last month, the AP reported that the $16-million-a-year program has allowed thousands of titled wild horses and burros to be slaughtered. The investigation found that BLM employees are among those profiting from the slaughter.

In response to the first report, Wild Horse and Burro Program chief Thomas Pogacnik wrote: “Once title is issued, the animal is private property.”

Under the 1971 law, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is mandated by Congress to protect wild horses and burros on public lands. Babbitt refused to comment for this story.

BLM officials say they rely on spot checks to trace horses that remain untitled. But Larry Woodard, the former state director of New Mexico’s BLM office, called spot checks inadequate.

“One out of every five animals adopted by the bureau never being titled would indicate that the titling aspect of the adoption program has not been a subject of intense concern,” Woodard wrote in a 1993 memo.

A U.S. Justice Department memo from April 1996 indicated that the BLM is not carefully screening adopters because the agency does not want to know what happens to the animals.

“The Adopt-a-Horse program is seriously flawed. . . . BLM has an unstated policy of not looking too closely at proposed adoptions,” wrote Charles Brooks, a Justice Department attorney who had been assisting the U.S. attorney’s office in Texas with an investigation of the program. “The agency’s approach to this was its version of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ”

A March 27, 1995, internal memo from that investigation quotes BLM law enforcement agent John Brenna as saying that Lili Thomas, a BLM official, made “a tacit admission of backdating documents used in the Wild Horse and Burro Program.”

“Her additional comments were that she did not know if this was illegal or not,” Brenna wrote.

Thomas did not immediately respond to messages requesting comment. Brenna refused to comment.

In the 25 years since the law’s passage, the BLM has gathered 165,635 animals in 10 Western states deemed “excess” and given most of them to adopters for $125 each. About 40,000 horses and burros remain in the wild.

Thomas Sharp, a 43-year-old wheat and alfalfa farmer, sits in a West Texas penitentiary, the only person in the country in federal prison for selling untitled horses.

He says he couldn’t afford to feed the animals and didn’t bother to send in a form requesting title. “They got me on a signature, but they got me, that’s for sure,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Hank Hockeimer of Oklahoma said he hoped Sharp’s four-month sentence would set an example.

“Our purpose for prosecuting this case was to send a message that under this program you can’t ostensibly adopt these horses and then sell them before you have title,” he said.

The AP contacted 20 adopters of untitled horses last week, but only two still had their animals. One said his horse died, another gave his away and the rest said they had sold their untitled horses, mostly at livestock auctions.

Wild horses sold at auction almost all eventually end up slaughtered, according to the operators of North American horse slaughterhouses.

George Varner Sr., who spent 20 years as a “killer buyer” for slaughterhouses, said one or two wild mustangs show up at auction barns each month in central Mississippi alone.

He said the only people willing to bid on the horses are the slaughterhouse buyers. “These horses aren’t good for anything else,” he said.

The AP’s Fred Bayles, Chris Sullivan and Drew Sullivan contributed to this report.

Protect Mustangs is an organization who protects and preserves native and wild horses.

Press Release: Protests to stop roundups and sales to kill buyers

(Photo © Cat Kindsfather, all rights reserved)

For immediate release

Call for peaceful protests to stop the roundups and stop the BLM from selling federally protected wild horses to kill-buyers

American public outraged at cruel ‘management’

WASHINGTON (October 6, 2012)–Protect Mustangs announced on Facebook Friday their call for nationwide protests to stop the roundups and stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from selling federally protected indigenous wild horses to kill buyers.

“We are calling for peaceful protests as well as candlelight vigils so no more wild horses will die from roundups, be tortured by the helicopters or sold to kill buyers for delicacy meat abroad,” states Anne Novak, executive director for California based Protect Mustangs “The public is outraged.”

Last week ProPublica exposed the BLM selling at least 1,700 federally protected wild horses to known pro-slaughter buyer, Tom Davis, and the public is furious. The BLM is charged with managing and protecting wild horses–not selling them for $10 a head to a pro-slaughter middle man to reduce the numbers in holding due to years of fiscally irresponsible roundups.

“Members of the public who are active in their communities must let their friends, family and neighbors know they can contact Congress if they don’t like their tax dollars used to fund cruel roundups,” says Tami Hottes, Protect Mustangs’ outreach coordinator for the Midwest and South. “People are upset to learn about the BLM selling all those historic wild horses to a guy like Tom Davis. It’s disgusting.”

This week the Antelope roundup, in northeastern Nevada, started under the pretense of saving the wild horses from a drought stricken area.

“We are concerned the BLM is jumping on the drought opportunity to zero out herds for industrialization of public land–especially massive energy projects that could pollute the water,” explains Novak. “Our indigenous wild horses are environmental barometers. If they die from drinking the water then that’s a red flag something is poisoning the water out there.”

Novak continues,”If there is a real problem on the range then bring them aid in the field–don’t round them up and warehouse them at taxpayer expense. It won’t cost much to bring them hay and water for a few months to get them through a difficult time.”

In watching videos from the roundup it should be pointed out that these wild horses were actually in excellent shape and there is no sign they have been suffering from lack of water or forage this summer. They are efficient browsers.

Even though the BLM announced last spring they would bait trap, they are not keeping their word to the American public. The BLM continues with cruel helicopter roundups.

The contractor has been criticized in the past for deadly incidents that could have been prevented. Despite objections from advocates and members of the public, the BLM continues to hire the contractor.

At the Antelope roundup advocates from The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) recorded videos showing healthy horses stampeded into traps, foals terrorized by choppers and a terrified stallion jumping out of the capture corral breaking his leg and running away. He was then euthanized by the BLM.

During the roundup wild horses were traumatized with whips and a wild mare broke her neck and died in transport.

If these historic wild horses had not been rounded up surely they would be alive with their families roaming in the West.

Outraged members of the public are calling BLM officials requesting the roundups stop. Officials downplay the cruelty and trauma, claiming these were rare incidents and touting that roundups, also known as “gathers”, only have a 1% death rate.

“We disagree with their whittled down death rate,” states Novak. “For years we have caught the BLM avoiding the correct death count and misleading Congress about the true number of horses painfully dying in roundups. During winter 2010 more than 180 wild horses died or were euthanized as a result of the roundup but the BLM tried to rewrite the numbers.”

The federal agency, funded by Congress to manage wild horses and burros, attributes the gross majority of roundup deaths to pre-existing conditions when they are obviously roundup related. If the horses weren’t rounded up they surely would not have died at that time.

The BLM often kills indigenous wild horses for being “old” and claims it was a pre-existing condition. They also kill baby horses claiming they have leg deformities. The foals can’t tolerate being stampeded for many miles on their undeveloped baby feet and legs and suffer severe injuries and are euthanized. BLM resists taking responsibility for their heinous actions.

At roundups since 2009, advocates as well as members of the press and public have been pushed back from the trap site and the holding corrals. It appears the BLM wants to hide the cruel roundups and injured animals from public view.

“The Wild Horse and Burro Program avoids transparency because of their disgusting secrets,” states Novak. “The public has a right to know what’s happening at roundups and afterwards. The public wants to know how many federally protected wild horses have been sold to the slaughter middle men since 2005.”

In 2004, a stealth rider known as the Burns amendment was attached to the Congressional Appropriations Bill to allow unlimited sales of captive wild horses over the age of ten or those who have been presented at adoption venues (live or Internet) three times–even pregnant mares and one-year-olds called yearlings.

The recent ProPublica article, written by Dave Phillips, highlights a corrupt program and interviews a pro-slaughter middle man. According to ProPublica, ‘Tom Davis buys 100s of mustangs at a time, sight unseen, for $10 a head. BLM has sold him more than 1,700 wild horses and burros since 2009.

“Hell, some of the finest meat you will ever eat is a fat yearling colt,” he says.

“. . . but BLM’s Sally Spencer said it would be unfair for BLM to look more closely at him based on the volume of his purchases. “It’s no good to just stir up rumors,” she said.’

In 1997 Associated Press investigative journalist, Martha Mendoza, uncovered BLM’s internal corruption wherein adopted wild horses were quickly being sold to slaughter even by BLM employees who adopted them.

‘A multimillion-dollar federal program created to save the lives of wild horses instead is channeling them by the thousands to slaughterhouses where they are chopped into cuts of meat.

Among those profiting from the slaughter are employees of the Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency that administers the program.’

Mendoza’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) research and the story she exposed, forced the adoption program to change their protocol and only give title to the mustangs after one year to prevent the wild horses from being sold into the slaughter pipeline.

Today the BLM sends America’s living treasures to slaughter by selling them to the middle men who sell them to slaughter. Protect Mustangs asks Congress for a freeze on roundups, a freeze on sales and a full investigation into the ‘sale authority program’ since 2005.

The roundups ramped up in 2009 with the stimulus package push for the New Energy Frontier on public land and a new mandate to wipe out the wild herds of the West known as The Salazar Plan.

Despite nationwide protests in 2009-10 against the Secretary of the Interior’s plan, the majority of wild horses and burros were ripped from their family bands, taken off their land and the stallions were sterilized. President Obama ignored public outcry and Congress eventually fell for the BLM pleas for funding to ‘help the wild horses’.

In 2010, 54 members of Congress joined Congressman Raul Grijalva requesting a moratorium on roundups and a National Academy of Science (NAS) investigation into the broken program. Somehow the BLM has taken charge of the NAS investigation now called a “study” and is feeding the NAS the information instead of the Academy conducting independent research.

Today more than 52,000 wild horses and burros are living in captivity–mostly in the Midwest as specified in the Salazar Plan. Last year the controversial Wild Horse and Burro Program cost the American taxpayer 78 million dollars. Next year the cost will increase.

Protect Mustangs requests that Congress work with advocates to find a way to return wild horses to their wild lands in the West–to create biodiversity on the range–a win-win for wild horses, livestock, landowners, tourism and energy development on the New Energy Frontier. Their presence also helps greatly to reduce wildfires.

“Shrinking the numbers of wild horses left on public land today could be dangerous,” explains Kerry Becklund, director of outreach for Protect Mustangs. “Giving already small herds fertility control will ruin genetic viability and could create inbreeding.”

The BLM’s reproduction rates don’t account much for mortality within the herd. Often foals don’t live to be two years old but the BLM spin on population has them multiplying like rabbits.

Studies show predators such as mountain lions and coyotes reduce the wild horse foal population. Last summer several young foals were killed by coyotes at a BLM holding facility near Sparks, Nevada. Even so, the BLM hides the truth about predators reducing the population and continues to repeat they have no natural predators despite the fact they do.

“Show me a real independent headcount before we talk about fertility control,”says Novak. “There aren’t enough wild horses left on the range any more. The truth is that the BLM will continue to roundup wild horses to treat them with fertility control. Roundups have been deadly so far. Roundups are NOT the answer. Biodiversity is the answer.”

Novak continues, “More than 52,000 indigenous wild horses have been captured and are warehoused in government holding. Selling ‘excess’ wild horses to kill-buyers is a heinous act and must stop now as well as the gluttony of roundups”

# # #

Media Contacts:

Anne Novak, 415-531-8454, Anne@ProtectMustangs.org

Kerry Becklund, 510-502-1913, Kerry@ProtectMustangs.org

Links of interest:

AP reports & Protect Mustangs speaks out against the roundups: 3,500 Wild horses going to loose their freedom starting October 1st Federal roundup of wild horses burros starts today http://www.lvrj.com/news/federal-roundup-for-wild-horses-burros-starts-today-172056591.html

ProPublica reports: All the missing horses: What happened to the wild horses Tom Davis bought from the government  http://www.propublica.org/article/missing-what-happened-to-wild-horses-tom-davis-bought-from-the-govt

Brutal report for day 1 of Nevada’s Antelope roundup. Two horses die. AWHPC video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne3ppBnbr7g&feature=youtu.be

Day 3 of Antelope roundup. Foals are terrorized by the helicopter and chased too long on their tender hooves. AWHPC video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N9LDAwZqyU&feature=youtu.be

Buffalo News (January 5, 1997) US effort to save wild horses leads thousands to slaughter as workers profit by Martha Mendoza http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=BN&p_theme=bn&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EAF99E45C1DF5CF&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM

The Burns amendment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conrad_Burns#The_Burns_Amendment

Huffington Post (October 17, 2009) Ken Salazar’s wild horse plan fuels accusations that he’s in the pocket of ranchers by Martin Griffith http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/17/ken-salazars-wild-horse-p_n_324799.html

News 4 KRNV Reno BLM selling to kill buyer? http://www.mynews4.com/news/local/story/BLM-selling-to-a-kill-buyer/s7svkl_zd0i1NVKHbd0ceA.cspx

Oct 5th Facebook announcement~Call to Stop the Roundups: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=418628774862814&set=a.240625045996522.58710.233633560029004&type=1&theater

Protect Mustangs on the web http://www.ProtectMustangs.org