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Department of Interior Releases Plea for Help in Caring for Mustangs

Press Release

The U.S. of the Interior sent the following letter to the press today requesting help with the ever-increasing populations of mustangs and burros that are exceeding the carrying capacity of Bureau of Land Management acreage. Additionally, the current number of mustangs and burros in the department's holding facilities is threatening to overwhelm resources for taking care of the animals.

Wild Horses and Burros Need Your Help

The crisis facing wild horses and burros on public lands has reached a critical point. Horse lovers have the knowledge and resources to help resolve this crisis. Now is the time to do it.

Currently, some 32,000 wild horses and burros run free on public rangelands in the West managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Without natural predators, these free-roaming animals reproduce quickly. If left unchecked, this population growth would lead to starvation or dehydration for many wild horses and burros.

To keep this from happening, the bureau removes 10,000 wild horses and burros from the range each year and offers them up for adoption. The American public adopts 6,000 to 7,000 of these animals annually, leaving thousands of mustangs in the bureauís holding facilities at a substantial cost to American taxpayers. In fact, holding costs exceed $20 million a year, more than half of what the Bureau will spend on its total wild horse and burro program in 2005.

In recognition of these adoption limits, along with the high cost of keeping older mustangs in holding, Congress recently passed legislation that directs BLM to sell wild horses and burros that are over 10 years old.

The law applies to about 8,400 animals. The goal was to place these animals with buyers committed to long-term care.

The sales program faced a crisis in April, however, when two buyers resold or traded their horses to others, who then sold the horses to a processing plant. In response, BLM, working in partnership with Ford Motor Co., intervened quickly to save those horses that had not yet been slaughtered.

The bureau also suspended its horse sales for a month, during which time the agency revised its procedures to deter such incidents. In addition, the agency worked with all three U.S. horse processing plants to limit the possibility that any more horses would end up at those plants.

The bad publicity has stalled the sale program. While the BLM has resumed sales, it has much work to do. So far the agency has sold more than 1,400 horses and burros, meaning some 7,000 remain to be sold this year. These animals need good, caring, permanent homes.

We are asking those who have the ability to take care of these horses to contact the BLM at 800/710-7597 or e-mail the agency at For those who would rather adopt a younger horse, click on the Department of Interior's web site at

Many people, however, who would like to help do not have the land and facilities to care for an untrained animal. Those who are not in a position to buy or adopt a wild horse or burro may want to make a tax-deductible donation to the Save the Mustangs fund, established by Ford Motor Co. in partnership with the BLM and Take Pride in America, a national volunteer organization. The web site is

Working together, we can preserve the 7,000 wild horses and burros that must be sold. In so doing, we will be protecting living symbols of Western history and icons of the American spirit of freedom.--Gale A. Norton, Secretary of the Interior