The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act includes specific regulations relative to the use, care and sale of BLM wild horses and burros. While few people will argue that these regulations don't need updating and strengthening, there is much which can be done to benefit these animals while the BLM, congress and the courts work out revisions. The Act in its current form provides for significant penalties for those persons who violate its provisions, so it makes sense for those concerned about this issue to familiarize themselves with these regulations and formally and accurately report violations to the BLM.
All adopted wild horses and burros remain property of the US government for a period of at least one year after adoption, at which time title will be issued if the adopter fulfills his/her obligations specified in the Act. Anyone selling, or attempting to sell, animals which are still US government property are in violation of Federal law.
The Act specifies that wild and free-roaming horses and burros shall be humanely treated and shall not be used for commercial purposes. The courts have held that these requirements should largely prevail even after title is issued. My understanding is that it was not the court's intent to prevent someone for reasonable purposes to sell an adopted horse to another private individual, but rather to prevent these animals from becoming commercial commodities for profit.
There are also regulations pertaining to slaughterhouse and sale records which are presently being reviewed by the Federal courts.
One must remember that wild horse and burro regulations have to remain reasonable. If the regulations become a burden to adopters, the process for adopting excess horses will collapse. The only other method of controlling excess horses permitted under the Act is "humane killing". I would argue that this approach is not desirable either. The BLM is required to maintain ecologically viable herd management areas, not only for the horses, but for all the native animals who compete for space, water and forage. Thus the adoption system must remain workable and these horses must remain attractive to prospective adopters. The tricky balance is to do this while at the same time making it unprofitable for unscrupulous persons to capitalize on these animals.
Watchful citizens interested in the wild horse and burro situation can help. BLM freezemarked horses offered at "killer sales" or sold directly to slaughterhouses are supposed to be accompanied by a title. There is evidence to suggest that this rule is routinely ignored. If you are aware of such a sale taking place, ask to see the original title. If the horse is not properly titled, respectfully inform the seller or auctioneer that this is a freezemarked horse, it is a violation of Federal law to sell it without a valid title, and this transaction will be reported for prosecution.
"Photocopied" titles can be forged. Insist on being able to inspect the title. Record the freezemark number and the signalment code. Then check the horse to see that both match. The two links listed below show you how to read the horse's freezemark and how to construct a signalment code from looking at the horse.
It is easy for someone to forge a serial number on a falsified title. It doesn't occur to most people to forge the signalment code. If the code on the title differs significantly from the code which you construct when looking at the horse, you may have likely run upon a forgery.
The BLM is a huge organization and most of its employees are spread extremely thin. So the best prevention of wild horse and burro abuse is through the involvement of private citizens who are observant, know what to look for and carefully document what they find so that the BLM can develop a case and hopefully intervene in time to prevent abuse. As soon as exploitation of the Adopt-A-Horse or Burro program becomes no longer profitable, the abuses which are alleged should stop.
Questions? Comments? email me!
This is not a BLM operated or BLM sponsored site. It is run by private wild horse and burro enthusiasts.
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