Costs of the Bureau of Land Management's wild-horse management program are spiraling out of control, reports the Denver Post.
Far more horses are just being kept in holding pens than anyone wants to adopt, says the federal General Accounting Office.
"The program is at a critical crossroads," the GAO report said. "Within the program's existing budget, BLM cannot afford to care for all the animals off the range, while at the same time manage wild horse and burro populations on the range."
There is a program by which state prison inmates care for and break horses, which are later adopted. Everyone loves it -- it's a feel-good news story. When I worked for the Cañon City Daily Record, I wrote a feature about it too.
The horses find homes, the inmates have a purpose in their lives, everyone wins.
But it places only a fraction of the horses that are rounded up.
The simple fact is that the horse-adoption market is finite, and not everyone who wants a horse wants a mustang.
The BLM has relied on adoption programs that require people who adopt the animals—protected under the wild horse act—don't sell them for slaughter. The agency also keeps older animals or those deemed unadoptable in long-term facilities. Some live for 15 to 20 years in the pens.
"Since 2001, over 74,000 animals have been removed from the range, while only about 46,600 have been adopted or sold," the report said.
This is the unanticipated dollar cost of the sentimentality that keeps the mustangs out of dog food cans and butcher shops. (Via Colorado Independent.)
UPDATE: BLM tries shuffling money and horses while talks continue.