The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) and its coalition partners have sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Debra Haaland calling for the immediate termination of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Adoption Incentive Program (AIP) following a New York Times report which exposed the Trump administration initiative that has led to truckloads of horses being sold for slaughter.

The program pays individuals $1,000 apiece to adopt a wild horse or burro; according to the report, adopters are pocketing the $1,000 payment, then selling the horses to slaughter auctions. Although the adopters sign a contract agreeing not to sell horses or burros for slaughter, the agency is not attempting to enforce those contracts. Groups of related individuals are adopting four horses or burros each (the BLM’s per-adopter limit), then dumping them at kill pens, collecting $30,000 or more in incentive payments and sale fees. The investigation also found disturbing abuse and severe neglect of wild horses and burros by AIP adopters who were unwilling or unqualified to provide proper care.

AWHC and its rescue partners, Evanescent Mustang Rescue, Skydog Sanctuary and Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, are also calling for a moratorium on the Trump administration’s plan to round up mass numbers of wild horses and burros from public lands, fueling efforts to dispose of captured wild horses and burros and resulting in their illegal slaughter.

“We call on the U.S. Department of Interior to immediately halt the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which is defrauding American taxpayers and sending America’s federally protected wild horses and burros to slaughter,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “This disastrous outcome is the predictable result of the BLM’s failed policy of cruelly rounding up wild horses and burros by the thousands from public lands each year instead of managing them humanely in their habitats on our public lands.”

“Since the start of the AIP, we have consistently seen more and more groups of unhandled mustangs dumped in kill pens, including some still wearing their BLM neck tags,” says Candace Ray, founder of Evanescent Mustang Rescue and Sanctuary. “We expect to see many more unhandled mustangs needing rescue after adopters who received their $1,000 from the AIP funnel the horses into kill pens across the country. This cycle will continue until the program is shut down.”

“Skydog Sanctuary has spent years rescuing wild horses and burros out of the slaughter pipeline. By far, 2020 ‒ the first year adopters received titles under the AIP ‒ is the worst year we’ve ever seen, with a shocking increase in the number of untouched, untrained federally-protected wild horses in slaughter auctions,” said Clare Staples, founder, and president of Skydog Sanctuary. “The cost to these horses is way too high and we are calling for a halt to the program, echoing the call of over 86,000 people who have so far signed our petition demanding the end of this costly and disastrous program.”

More information on the program and investigation into it here.

Sign the American Wild Horse Campaign’s online petition to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland here.

~ with files from American Wild Horse Campaign