Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit to suspend the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro $1,000-a-head Adoption Incentive Program because it is killing wild horses, which is in direct opposition to the program’s requirements and inconsistent with the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971,

“The WHBA was passed to protect the role of wild horses in maintaining the ecological balance of public lands. BLM being caught red-handed treating wild horses like garbage and betraying them during the 50th anniversary of the passing of the WHBA is a national disgrace,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “For decades, the BLM has prioritized commercializing federal public lands over wild horses. It’s time for new policies that actually protect wild horses.”

Despite the terms of the AIP contract, an article published by The New York Times on May 15, 2021, revealed that wild horses and burros were dumped at slaughter auctions as soon as the adopters obtained full payment and title to the animals from the government.

“The latest incentive program, implemented in 2019, is a blatant violation of Congress’ mandate that BLM ensure wild horses are not sent to slaughter,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “In revising its adoption policy, BLM failed to follow the procedural requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act and the Administrative Procedures Act hoping to avoid public scrutiny of a faulty program that removed any safeguard to prevent the horses from certain death.”

If FoA wins the lawsuit, the agency will be forced to suspend the adoption program indefinitely and to do a proper NEPA analysis.

FoA’s lawsuit states BLM never analyzed how the new adoption incentive program would work and failed to police where the horses go and what happens to them afterwards. Furthermore, the adoption scheme incentivizes more roundups because the agency needs an ongoing supply of horses. It also allows the BLM to stick its head in the sand when it comes to considering alternatives that would better protect wild horses on the range.

This is not the first time BLM has failed to do its job. The Department of the Interior Office Inspector General released a report on Oct. 23, 2015, outlining its investigation of the agency’s sale of approximately 1,700 wild horses from 2008 through 2012 to a single rancher that resulted in them being sent to slaughter.

Read the full complaint here.