In a lifetime of working with horses, Gary Kidd, 73, had never adopted an untrained wild mustang before. But when the federal government started paying people $1,000 a horse to adopt them, he signed up for as many as he could get. So did his wife, two grown daughters and a son-in-law.
Mr. Kidd, who owns a small farm near Hope, Ark., said in a recent telephone interview that he was using the mustangs, which are protected under federal law, to breed colts and that they were happily eating green grass in his pasture.
In fact, by the time he spoke on the phone, the animals were long gone. Records show that Mr. Kidd had sold them almost as soon as he legally could. He and his family received at least $20,000, and the mustangs ended up at a dusty Texas livestock auction frequented by slaughterhouse brokers known as kill buyers.
Adoption Incentive Program in 2019 because it wanted to move a huge surplus of mustangs and burros out of government corrals and find them “good homes.” Thousands of first-time adopters signed up, and the bureau hailed the program as a success.
American Wild Horse Campaign, which has tracked the program. “They call it adoptions, knowing the horses are going to slaughter. But this way the B.L.M. won’t get its fingerprints on it.”
The bureau denies the allegations, noting that the government requires all adopters to sign affidavits promising not to resell the horses to slaughterhouses or their middlemen. But a spokesman said the bureau had no authority to enforce those agreements or to track the horses once adopters have title to them.