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Wild horse adoptions continue in Kingman

For more than 40 years, the Bureau of Land Management has been in the adoption business – of wild horses and burros in the West, that is. And it’s been controversial for about as long. The next adoption event is coming up Friday through Sunday at the Mohave County Fairgrounds in Kingman.

BLM lands can only support a certain number of wild horses and burros. That’s according to BLM spokesperson Deborah Stevenson.

“And wild horses and burros don’t have very many natural predators, and so they tend to populate their numbers fairly quickly,” she said, “and consequently would put the balance out there out of kilter.”  

Stevenson calls the program a success. But she does admit questions have been raised about how the animals are rounded up and how they’re treated by their new owners. In the past, some have even been sold for pet food.

But Stevenson says things are different how. Prospective owners must prove they are capable of taking care of the animals, and aren’t given titles until they’ve had the animals a year.

Still, some animal advocates like Catherine Ritlaw remain fiercely against the program. Ritlaw runs Journeys End Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Kingman. She says she’s received several calls from people who have adopted wild horses and can no longer care for them. She says many who adopt the animals aren’t ready for the commitment.

“I mean mustangs are smart. They’re incredibly loyal. They bond with you very, very strongly,” she said. “They’re very loyal. But I would just say do your homework and now what you’re getting into.”

The problem, Ritlaw feels, is that so many don’t. She says she supports qualified people adopting the animals, but doesn’t believe the BLM should remove them from their habitat in the first place. In her words, the agency’s reasoning behind the removal is “baloney.”

More than 230,000 wild horses and burros have been adopted since 1971.