Washington Wild horses put up for adoption by the Bureau of Land Management continue to be slaughtered, in some cases within weeks of the owner gaining title of the animal, according to agency records.
Critics question how aggressively BLM is investigating adopters, who must sign a statement promising they won't sell the horse to slaughter. Some resell the horses to another owner, who may sell the animal for slaughter.
"Not only is BLM not actually prosecuting people, but they're not even doing the investigation to try to figure it out, and it seems like they don't want to know," said Howard Crystal, an attorney for The Fund for Animals.
An owner must raise the horse for a year before receiving a title. BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington said that in that year, the bureau does everything possible to ensure horses don't go to slaughter. Once the horse is titled, it is the owner's personal property.
For 30 years, BLM has managed wild horses on federal land. To help control the population, several thousand are captured and put up for public adoption each year.
The horses are sold by BLM for $125 and up. Crystal said he has heard of slaughterhouses paying as much as $1,000. Increased demand for horse meat in Japan and Europe has driven up prices in recent months.
Last week, The Fund For Animals asked a federal judge to block BLM's plans to round up 21,000 of the estimated 48,000 horses roaming Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming over five years.