Groups Seek To End Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse Adoption Incentive Program

After a stipulation from the parties, a District of Columbia District Court lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management regarding its horse adoption incentive program was transferred on Monday to the District of Colorado. 

The parties explained in the stipulation to transfer the case that there is another lawsuit filed by Friends of Animals in the District of Colorado with similar allegations, which allows the parties to transfer the lawsuit for convenience. 

The complaint, filed in early July, claimed that the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which provides $1,000 to individuals who adopt a wild horse or burro, was created illegally. Specifically, the program was reportedly created without the required public comment opportunity or environmental analysis. The filing alleged that horses would be harmed through the program, and that the government did not follow the proper steps before putting the program into action. 

The plaintiffs, American Wild Horse Campaign, Skydog Ranch & Sanctuary, Evanescent Mustang Rescue and Sanctuary Inc., Clare Staples, and Carol Walker, claimed that the program “would foreseeably lead to wild horses and burros being profoundly mistreated and sold for slaughter in contravention of Congress’s intent in enacting the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and subsequent appropriations of agency funding that specifically forbid any expenditure of federal funds for the slaughter of healthy wild horses or burrows.” 

In the complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that there is clear evidence that the public does not want BLM programs which allow for horses to be treated inhumanely or slaughtered, and that the adoption program has caused the plaintiffs to expend resources to protect the adopted horses and investigate what is happening to them.  The plaintiffs said that they submitted a report to BLM and the Department of the Interior with the outcomes of the adoption program for the “federally protected animals” which showed that the animals ended up at auctions where they were sold for slaughter. 

Through the lawsuit, the plaintiffs hope to force the defendant to withdraw the adoption incentive program or to impose a moratorium until the program complies with federal laws. They said that before filing the lawsuit a petition was sent to the federal government, but did not receive a response. 

The individuals and associations accused the defendants of violating the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The plaintiffs are represented by Eubanks & Associates PLLC and lawyers with the American Wild Horse Campaign. The federal defendants are represented by the U.S. Department of Justice.