By Lily Whiteman
About a year
ago, Mary Terry -- a full-time professional and mother of four --
casually surfed into an on-line auction of wild horses and burros
run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). But no sooner had she
clicked onto photographs of a forlorn but irresistible burro than
she joined the action. After fulfilling BLMs screening requirements,
Terry bid on the burro...Then another...And then another. Within
weeks, Terry and her husband brought all three burros back to their
New Hampshire home. Within months, four BLM horses followed. Terry
now gushes over her seven adoptees as her "best friends".
How did a visit
to a web site suddenly transform Terry into an angel of mercy for
homeless horses and burros? "Seeing those faces..." explains
Terry. "I felt sorry for the ones no one else had bid on. I
adopted Humphrey, a 22 year-old horse. Who else in their right mind
would have wanted him?"
take home BLMs wild horses and burros for riding, jumping,
pulling carriages or working. Karen Malloy, BLMs coordinator
of Internet adoptions of wild horses and burros describes these
animals as "diamonds in the rough". "Once gentled,
they can do anything domestic animals can do," she adds. Even
then elderly Humphrey was not too old to change into a calm pet.
And with an average auction price of about $200, BLM horses and
burros are usually much cheaper than commercially available animals.
the Wild, Wild West
about 7,500 wild horses and burros are removed from their home on
the range, and placed in new homes by BLM. Without such measures,
these species, which have no natural predators and are protected
by law, could double their numbers in as little as five years. The
resulting over grazing would wreak ecological havoc on public lands.
But even with
BLM management, public lands harbor about 46,000 wild horses and
burros, "about 20,000 more than should be there," according
to Malloy. BLM has not kept pace with the excess because the Agency
"only removes as many animals as the market can now absorb,"
explains Malloy. BLM, however, believes that demand for these animals
would increase if more people knew about their availability. Thats
why the Agency is reaching out to potential adopters via Internet
and satellite TV downlink auctions.
Business Wire as "a first for a sophisticated, interactive
government web site," BLMs new adoption
web site regularly hosts Internet auctions of wild horses and
burros. Several weeks before each e-quine auction, the web site
posts a gallery of photos and descriptive information about approximately
40 animals. Electronic bids on these animals are then accepted during
a two week long period that follows. The highest bid for each horse
and burro is posted in real time on the adoption web site.
Like many other
Internet adopters, Terry confirms that without the BLMs new
adoption web site, she "just wouldnt have had enough
information or interest to pursue the adoptions." But the value
of the web site extends far beyond the almost 100 adoptions it has
generated in 5 Internet adoptions held since the sites May
1998 debut. Attracting over 230,000 visitors so far, the site also
fans interest in live auctions that are regularly held at BLMs
permanent holding facilities.
TV Downlink Auctions
BLM is also
expanding its search for homes for wild horses and burros through
nationally televised satellite downlink auctions. Held in August
1999, the first of these auctions was preceded by postings of photos
and descriptions of available animals on BLMs wild
horse and burro web site. During the auction that followed,
pre-taped footage of horses and burros located in Nevada was fed,
along with live footage of an auctioneer located in Texas, to homes
and other locations equipped with satellite dishes.
feeds really show how wild the animals are, and how they move --
whether they trot smoothly, whether they rear and buck," observes
Melanie Jackson, who adopted a horse during the auction. A total
of 87 pairs, geldings and studs were placed to auction participants
who phoned in bids from all over the nation, and picked-up animals
from several geographically distributed BLM locations.
offering all the bells and whistles of the electronic age, hi-tech
horse and burro auctions do not lack for the human touch. "I
try to help adopters get the right kind of horse for their needs;
part of my job is being a match-maker," explains Malloy. "If
a big person needs a big horse, Ill help them find one. If
a horse is high strung, Ill tell them."
on Internet or satellite adoptions can, without penalty, decline
to adopt animals during an auction or when they meet animals at
pick-up time. "We want to place animals with adopters who really
want them," assures Malloy.
The next Internet
and satellite auctions are scheduled for January 2000. The January
Internet auction will feature pintos, Kigers (Spanish blood), halter
trained and wild fire survivors.
in BLM horse and burro auctions are screened to ensure that they
are equipped to pick up adopted animals from BLM facilities, and
to shelter and care for animals. Minimum bids start at $125.00.
adoptions or call 1-800-370-3936.
adoptions or call 1-800-417-9647.
Whiteman, National Partnership for Reinventing Government, 750-17th
St., NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 694-0086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.