The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 entrusts the BLM with the responsibility to manage and protect wild horses and burros on the nation’s public lands. Because wild horses and burros are federally protected and lack natural predators, the BLM must manage population growth to ensure healthy wild horses and burros thrive on healthy public rangelands. To accomplish this mission, the BLM regularly monitors herd size and health, land health, vegetation quality and water availability and, when necessary, removes excess animals from the range to achieve balance. The BLM then works to place excess wild horses and burros into qualified private care through adoptions and sales.
The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program consists of an application, an adoption period of at least one year, and titling. Some wild horses and burros may be eligible for purchase through the Sales Program, which has it’s own process. Learn more about the Sales Program. For an easy step-by-step process for how to give a good home to a wild horse or burro, visit our How to Adopt or Purchase page.
Application Process and Requirements to Adopt
The BLM requires a thorough application process to ensure adopted wild horses and burros go to good homes. In general, the basic requirements are provided below. The BLM may conduct a site visit to ensure proper facilities are in place to provide good care to a wild horse or burro.
- Applicants must be at least 18 years old with no record of animal abuse
- Homes must have a minimum of 400 square feet of corral space per animal, with access to food, water and shelter
- Corral fence must meet height requirements:
- Adult horses - 6 feet
- Yearlings - 5 feet
- Burros - 4.5 feet
- Trailers must be stock type, covered, with swing gates and sturdy walls/floors
The BLM requires adopters to provide at least one year of good care before title of ownership is transferred. During this time, the BLM may conduct compliance checks to ensure the animal is in good condition and in a safe environment. Adopted animals may not be sold or given away, and the location of where the animal resides must be approved by the BLM.
Adopters will be notified one year from the adoption date with instructions for obtaining a signature from a qualified person, such as a veterinarian or county extension agent, verifying that humane care and treatment has been provided to the adopted animal(s). Once the signed letter is returned to the BLM, Certificate of Title will be issued to the adopter, transferring ownership from the U.S. Government to the adopter. At this point, the animal becomes private property and is no longer protected by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
Ensuring Good Homes for Adopted Wild Horses and Burros
The BLM cares deeply about the well-being of adopted wild horses and burros. The adoption process includes several provisions designed to ensure animals placed into private homes receive good care, including:
- The BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption and Sale Application requires a signature from the adopter to certify, under penalty of prosecution for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001 (which makes it a federal crime to make false statements to any agency of the United States), that the animal will be provided humane care and the adopter/purchaser will not knowingly sell or transfer ownership to any person or organization that intends to resell, trade, or give away the animal for slaughter or processing into commercial products.
- When a wild horse or burro is adopted from the BLM, it remains the property of the BLM for a minimum of one year, during which time periodic inspections occur to ensure the animal is being properly cared for. Adopters who have not yet fulfilled the requirements to receive official title to their adopted animals – which conveys private ownership – may not sell or otherwise transfer the animals.
- The BLM will transfer title of ownership to the adopter only if good care has been provided to the animal for a minimum of one year. This is confirmed through inspections to ensure the wild horse or burro is healthy.
By law, once titled, the horse or burro can be legally sold as private property and is no longer covered by the provisions of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The BLM does not have legal jurisdiction over titled animals, which would be subject to the same laws as other domesticated pets and livestock. Please contact local authorities with any concerns for titled animals.
If it is suspected untitled wild horses or burros are in an unauthorized location, such as a sale barn or auction, please contact the BLM. In the rare instances the BLM becomes aware of an untitled animal being sold without authorization, the agency take immediate action to retrieve the animal and sanction the adopter.