Legal Barriers Rein In Wild Horse Exports

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March 21, 2002  

Legal Barriers Rein In Wild Horse Exports

Associated Press

RENO -- Wild horses gathered from public lands around the West will not be exported for adoption by foreign countries any time soon, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management says.

"We have had interest from several nations to adopt or otherwise have wild horses and burros in their countries," said John Fend, the BLM's wild horse program manager in Washington.

There are too many legal and financial hurdles to begin international adoptions now, Fend said during a meeting here Tuesday of the agency's Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. Perhaps the biggest hurdle, he said, is the Wild Horse and Burro Act itself, which requires the BLM to monitor and enforce care requirements for the animals for one year after they are adopted.

Fend said an informal opinion by the Interior Department's solicitor general concluded that the agency--charged by Congress with protecting and managing the animals--lacks authority to enforce the law outside the United States.

Besides legal constraints, BLM Deputy Assistant Director Elena Daly said there also are financial considerations.

"Compliance checks take money . . . especially out of the country," she said.

The BLM's oversight has been criticized by animal rights groups and others who say the agency has turned a blind eye while adopted horses, seen by many as a symbol of the American West, were sent to slaughterhouses.

Trinidad and Tobago, the two-island nation off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean, had expressed interest in adopting some animals for use by mounted police.

Other countries, Fend said, have inquired about using mustangs or burros from the rural West as work animals and to improve the gene pools of their own horse populations.

Most of the queries have come from developing nations, Fend said.

Fend said the obstacles could be overcome through international treaties, but added it would be up to foreign countries to initiate those efforts with the State Department.

 
 
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