Rules around the sale of American wild horses and burros by the Bureau of Land Management have been tightened following an inquiry in the sale of 1700 animals to a Colorado livestock transporter.
The ultimate fate of the 1700 horses sold to Tom Davis, who was by far the biggest buyer of wild horses from the bureau in recent years, remains unclear. Horse welfare advocates fear the animals may have gone to slaughter in Mexico.
Wild horses are protected under federal law. The sale of them for slaughter is illegal.
On Friday, the bureau issued an interim instruction memorandum outlining the new conditions and restrictions.
The new policy, effective immediately, will remain in place until the bureau’s Wild Horse and Burro Program publishes additional guidance on sales.
The policy stipulates that no more than four wild horses and/or wild burros may be bought by an individual or group within a six-month period from the bureau without prior approval of the assistant director for renewable resources and planning.
Purchasers must describe where they intend to keep the animals for the first six months following the sale. Without prior approval from the assistant director, the bureau will not sell more than four animals destined for a single location in this six-month period.
Buyers must provide transportation for the purchased animals. Specifics regarding acceptable trailers can be obtained from the new interim policy, which is posted here.
The BLM will inspect trailers and reserves the right to refuse loading if the trailer does not ensure the safety and humane transport of the animal.
“Today’s announcement marks another step forward in our agency’s steady improvement in ensuring the health and humane treatment of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range,” the bureau’s acting director, Mike Pool, said.
The bureau said it encouraged anyone who has observed inhumane treatment or the sale to a slaughterhouse of a federally protected wild horse or burro, or who has factual information about such an incident, to report the details.
The Office of the Inspector General of the Interior Department is continuing an inquiry into the sale of the horses to Davis.
The extent of Davis’ wild horse dealings were revealed in a special report published by Propublica.org in September.
Davis has maintained throughout that he did nothing wrong. Alongside the Inspector General’s inquiry, Colorado officials are investigating whether Davis violated brand inspection laws as it appeared some of the horses were shipped across state lines.