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ProPublica Investigates Horse Adoption System
ProPublica Investigates Horse Adoption System

AIR DATE: October 4, 2012

A Colorado man has single handedly adopted 1,700 horses from the federal Bureau of Land Management's wild horse adoption system, but no one knows where a lot of those horses ended up. Some suspect he has sold those horses for slaughter, which is illegal. The investigative new site ProPublica looked at what might have happened to the horses and the overburdened wild horse roundup and adoption system. We'll talk with Dave Philipps, ProPublica's reporter, about the investigation and what could have happened to the horses in question.
Dave Philipps, Contributor, ProPublica


    comments powered by Disqus
    This story breaks my heart..there are 1700 WHB we know of how many more are their we do not? how and why would anyone waste their time worrying about petty personal conflicts and mud slinging when however, whoever ,released this article it cant change the fact that now its out...there is a face and a name attached to the actions that were only assumed and feared in the back of our minds, or admittedly the mainstream press has it and is using it...and to dilute the topic with stuff that my Aunt in Montana could give a rats bum about like which advocate pissed which other advocate off is a crime against the horses. please take that else where and use the readers brief moments attention on the important story ...our federal gov making their own rules, and our tax dollars are paying to do it... the entrusted job bestrode to BLM by Congress as per our American public voice requested is being broken! there is no protection and preserving here or effective range management for that matter if there are more horses in holding then on the range...
    deborah hurleyOct 10, 2012 15:07:56 PM
    Thank you Mr. Phillips for getting this story out to the public. As you can see many folks are deeply concerned over the welfare of our Wild Horses and some are more concerned with their desperate attempts to destroy an advocate, which also destroys the advocacy itself. Who pays ? the horses, be gone , you are not wanted, you are not helping the "cause". You are part of the problem if you bash a fellow advocate, not the solution. thank you Frisco
    FriscoOct 10, 2012 14:52:11 PM
    I could not agree more with Paula Denmon's comment. With so many, many Americans unaware of the plight of our wild mustangs and burros being brutally rounded up from their rightful homes, held in long term holding and being sent to slaughter, I don't really care who exposes it. As long as the story is getting out, I don't care and I am quite sure our wild ones would agree! Can we please, please stop bashing Laura Leigh and any other advocate who is working hard to try and stop this. It it beyond me why advocates cannot see the damage they do when they point fingers, criticize and acting quite frankly like high school kids in rival cliques. Can we all just rise above this for the sake of the animals we all claim to care about!
    Rhonda LanierOct 10, 2012 14:48:47 PM
    Please, let's try to refrain from badgering fellow advocates, and realize that anytime we have great public exposure to our cause that informs the American citizens who we desperately need on out side...this is a good thing. There is no need for us to argue about details, or who is doing what. The truth is the Public in General is not aware, and really does not care, until stories like this touch their heart, humanity, or pocketbook. And with Public support comes power, And Democracy Now as well as Pro Publica seem to have it...
    PAULA DENMONOct 10, 2012 13:17:49 PM
    It is way past time for the heinous corrupt actions of the BLM to be exposed and thankfully this process has begun because of courageous upfront advocates who serve no one other than the wild horses.
    Connie J. CunninghamOct 10, 2012 12:55:40 PM
    Why are you using BLM numbers if you have colleague Laura Leigh as a source? Why has she not corrected these numbers? Davis is a friend of Ken Salazar as he told you. Of course he is connected on the inside to be considered I do not think you made any FOIAs on this did you? Will you give credit to the person who did? Do you realize the advocates you undercut are people that left the association of Laura Leigh and they have been slandered by her? You have been used by an unscrupulous con artist, Mr. Phillips. And you allowed yourself to hurt an ongoing undercover investigation? All of the established and legitimate wild horse .orgs will not work with your buddy, Laura Leigh any longer. Why do you suppose that is? Congress ordered the BLM to sell them? This was a stealth rider and it was not debated or even known it was stuck into the Appropriations bill by the majority of those passing that bill. Thank Conrad Burns and Harry Reid for that. There is no evidence because other people gave you this information and you misused it to have 'the spot light' as Laura Leigh said. You are not a very good investigative reporter when you steal the research others can prove they did!
    Mar WargoOct 6, 2012 01:16:37 AM
    You have nothing of any substance or value to contribute... so you had to dig your old character defamation record out of the trash and replay it. Move on!
    connie j cunninghamOct 10, 2012 12:52:19 PM
    Mar Wargo, If it were not for Phillips article I, nor the hundreds of people I have contacted would not know the inhumane and unjust care of our wild horses etc. I didn't understand your contribution. Laura Leigh is doing an amazing joy and we are extremely grateful and supportive. ***
    Lucy PowersOct 10, 2012 13:47:18 PM
    Mar, I see you everywhere bashing Laura Leigh, it appears you have a "PERSONAL" vendetta ! I suggest you get some professional help. Your focus seems to be wrong as it's on people not horses, we are actually trying to save horses here !
    FriscoOct 10, 2012 15:03:19 PM
    CAROL WALKEROct 5, 2012 10:32:29 AM
    The roundups have been going on for far too long and it's time our wild horses get the protection they are entitled to. Investigation must take place to learn the truth for the 1700 sold. This is a total disgrace and must never happen again!
    jeanOct 4, 2012 18:59:03 PM
    Press charges and FIRE BLM!!
    KarenOct 3, 2012 19:57:10 PM
    A lawsuit against BLM needs to be started soon. It is against the law to send these horses to slaughter and this sneaky good ol' boys network needs to be slaughtered in COURT !
    LisaOct 3, 2012 18:21:17 PM
    i agree with lisa whole heartly... these are OUR horses and the gov should handle them as we want them too... with love and care but mostly just leave them alone... they are on public land in other words our land...
    nanOct 4, 2012 14:05:40 PM
    once again old letters curculate...these arent from today or the future.these are from years many.altho i hate horse killers.they need to circulate receint posts from today this week not years passed to ge a rise.ive seen this letter in the last few weeks hundreds of time.they no longer sell to horse some people want to keep it in the news.dont trust one site read many.
    juleaOct 3, 2012 15:57:48 PM
    Senator Burns of Montana slipped a bill into law five years ago to allow horse slaughter. Ken Salazar, Sec of the interior, rancher, has overseen the round up and slaughter of our mustangs. They are being sold as meat to European restarants.
    RamonaOct 5, 2012 00:34:21 AM
    Unbelievable. After all the years the BLM was created to protect these majestic creatures, they are now sending them off to slaughter. I have done my share in rescuing and if I had the resources, acreage or financial standing I would adopt every last one of the mustangs and adopt them ONLY to qualified people who pass background checks. Why can't the BLM hold such an adoption where the incentive to adopt a horse/burro is a reachable goal? What ended up happening to the 1700 horses that were supposedly adopted by a private party? Better not end up in dog food is ALL i have to say. PROTECT them BLM, DON'T send to slaughter.
    Michelle McKinnonOct 3, 2012 15:19:50 PM
    Nah, they don't put horsemeat in decades now as it was too tainted for dogs to eat. Instead they sell it as a luxury item for people to consume, taint, toxins, carcinogens and all. Yum
    Morgan GriffithOct 3, 2012 22:06:42 PM
    The govt. is holding more then 30'000 in their BLM holding facilities. There is NO way they can ever adopt them all out! esp. not nowadays with the economy in the tank. A big issue is also that adopting a Mustang is not like buying a domesticated horse. Mustangs need to be trained very differently, other then domestics. So often it happens that someone has a good heart, adopts one of them and then is unable to train them, sells it again and down the list they wind up in auctions and the kill pen again. OR the BLM has a 3 strike rule, where when a Wild Horse has been to adoptions 3 times and not found a home, they can then be sold. It is a very tragic situation and I am very thankful to Dave Philipps for his investigative work on this issue and bringing it out to the public. Last night I watched him being interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. You can see that interview on-line on
    ReginaOct 10, 2012 13:34:08 PM
    This is an absolutely ugly story. Most of us out here who supported the federal law protecting wild horses, applauded the wild horse adoption system and the BLM, have apparently been moving right along clueless as clams. You are burying your heads in the sand while thousands of these wild horses are being slaughtered? I realize it is hard for the majority of us to consider adoption (no land to speak of, or other resources), but there must be other alternatives. Perhaps I am sounding naive, but I would support setting up ranches on large expanses of federal land, hiring capable people as federal employees to watch over wild horses in their care, etc. Recoup some of the costs by setting up visitations to see wild horses, or guided photo "safaris". Get creative!
    Melanie IngramOct 3, 2012 14:23:24 PM
    Or BLM could quit playing ball with the ranchers, energy companies etc and just leave the horses on the land that was deemed as theirs by Congress in 1971. Just a thought.
    Morgan GriffithOct 3, 2012 22:08:32 PM
    The BLM should be held liable for the breaking the laws that protect free roaming horses and burros. This is our legacy? The great horses of the plains who helped to settle America were killed by America. Shame. Write letters to get Ken Salazar out of his job. He is a rancher, with a great conflict of interest and doesn't manage horses and burros. He kils them.
    Sheryl BarnesOct 3, 2012 12:48:45 PM
    Also...I am so sick about this that I can't hardly see straight. I love my horse that I still have and burro so much. It makes me sick to think that those beautiful animals were handed over for $10 to a killer. They deserved to be left alone or to be sold to a safe haven...damn I am so mad I could go after Davis myself. There is no way that BLM didn't know what was happening to the horses. Who was suppose to check on them? Who was suppose to get the records to see that they had a vet and were being taken care of? This needs to go all the way up and those BLM people need to be fired and jailed.
    Deborah VercammenOct 3, 2012 12:29:28 PM
    I have adopted five horses and two burros in the last 18 years from BLM. I had to jump through all kinds of hoops and they had to inspect my property and see my vet bills before they signed the final adoption papers. What has gone on here should be punishable by prison to the BLM people and the Davis person that bought the horses and had them slaughtered. I am outraged! Something seriously needs to be done. Who is with me? We need to have charges brought against Davis...He needs to go to jail...that slimy bastard.
    Deborah VercammenOct 3, 2012 12:24:42 PM
    The BLM trusts this guy. Who trusts the BLM?
    Ellie McCaffreyOct 3, 2012 11:05:47 AM
    Thank you for this! This needs to be passed around to the masses!
    EllenOct 2, 2012 19:14:35 PM
    Thank you Dave..for your investagation.It amazes me that you could find out all of this about this kill buyer in Colorado (Tom Davis) yet our own BLM did not know about this guy. The next question is why the removal of so many horses..the numbers do not add up.People that share those ranges are not us taxpayers that can not even visit these areas.Welfare cattle ranchers will not allow us...I ask you and others that we keep in office such as Congress and Governors they promised to protect the and we thought in the past..Americas allow people to kill them and send them to borders for a horrible death..keep up the great work Dave..and we are grateful and hopeful that this will not continue and people must be fired in that agency!
    Patricia CoffmanOct 2, 2012 17:57:29 PM
    Thanks Dave Phillips and associates for bringing this all to light !
    Michelle Freshteh BrownOct 2, 2012 16:15:51 PM
    Thank You Dave, great work in this investigation, may an un bias agency {not the BLM} take your lead and put this nightmare for our wild horses to an end, and our government put in place secure actions that will not allow this to happen to our protected horses. Time to fix the problem which is the BLM and it's look the other way views ! thank you again, Frisco
    friscoOct 2, 2012 15:05:32 PM
    Thank you Dave Philips and NPR for continuing to get this issue into the public light. Dave you are a true investigative journalist, a true rare gem in this era of "news." These issues are incredible including the difficulty gaining information that has even required a Federal Lawsuit, that won a landmark press freedoms decision in the Ninth Circuit. We are getting ready for trial to attempt to gain access to our horses. I hope you continue to have interest in this issue and "BRAVO!"
    Laura LeighOct 2, 2012 12:06:43 PM
    I hope someone can educate Mr. Philipps, who said in this interview "The BLM doesn't have much choice" to round up horses and that fertility drugs are "promising" - maybe he could do some research on the viability of herds, and realize that giving fertility drugs to non-viable herds isn't so promising after all.
    NatashaOct 6, 2012 01:19:08 AM
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