For some, owning a horse can be a dream come true— and if you’re prepared to adopt a wild “burro”, the US government is now offering an $1,000 (£756) incentive to go with it.
The US is dealing with a crisis in its wild horse population which, as of March last year, was estimated at 81,950 animals — more than three times the number the land area can support.
Maintaining the herds on “fragile rangelands” and holding facilities is costing the US taxpayer almost $50million a year and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) hopes its new initiative will boost the chances of finding good homes for horses that have been removed from public lands.
“High costs and a growing number of unadopted and unsold animals in BLM holding facilities have hindered the agency’s ability to reduce over-population in recent years,” the BLM said in a statement.
“Chronic overpopulation increases the risk of damage to rangeland resources through overgrazing, and raises the chances of starvation and thirst for animals in overpopulated herds.”
In the new incentive programme, qualified adopters will be granted $500 within 60 days of the adoption date, and an additional $500 within 60 days of titling for each animal, which normally takes one year.
It is available for all untrained animals who are eligible for adoption, including animals at BLM facilities, off-site events or on the agency’s Online Corral website, with adopters paying just a $25 adoption fee per animal.
“We understand that adopting a wild horse or burro represents a commitment. The incentive is designed to help with the adopter’s initial training and humane care,” said BLM deputy director of programs and policy Brian Steed. “I encourage anyone who has considered adopting a wild horse or burro to join the thousands of owners who have provided good homes to more than 245,000 wild horses or burros since 1971.”
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People interested in adopting a horse will need to complete an online application proving they can feed and care for the animals, as well as agreeing to adhere to legal and titling requirements. More information about guidelines and requirements can by found on the BLM website.
“Finding good homes for excess animals and reducing overpopulation on the range are top priorities for the BLM as we strive to protect the health of these animals while balancing other legal uses of our public rangelands, including allowing for other traditional land uses such as wildlife conservation and grazing,” Mr Steed added.
Burros have gone on to find careers in many walks of life including dressage, endurance and therapeutic programmes and they are often the preferred mounts for local police and border patrols.
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