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Buyers go wild at Northeast Texas horse, burro adoption event

By Glenn Evans
March 1, 2012 at 11 p.m.

John and Kay Griffin took home a piece of the American spirit Thursday.

The young bay mustang with the blaze star on its nose and four white socks is on the couple's pasture in Corrigan by now, far from its former home on federally owned ranges in the western U.S., where it was born.

"She's a sweetie," Kay Griffin said after the couple left DeKalb where they adopted the wild filly under a federal program that enlists animal lovers in a mission of the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management.

"She's shy and scared right now," Griffin said. "But we're taking her home."

The Wild Horse and Burro Program holds adoptions, such as the one that continues today and Saturday in DeKalb, to balance wild horse populations with the capacity of the land and to draw Americans into the conservation mission, spokesman Paul McGuire said.

Similar adoptions have been held in Marshall and Nacogdoches, he said.

"They usually bring a load of about 50 animals," he said, describing a process that starts out as an auction, but by its second day usually lets people pick their horses or burros on a first-come, first-served basis.

Participants must adopt the animal for a minimum $125 fee set by statute and must keep it on U.S. soil for a year before applying for ownership.

"And during that year at some time, one of our compliance officers comes to you and inspects the animal," McGuire said, noting the one-year requirement seeks to prevent people from obtaining the animals for shipment to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

"That actually is a reason that requirement is in place," he said.

While burros can make stubbornly loyal companion animals, the mustangs are the stars of the adoption program.

Brought to the New World by the Spanish in the 1500s, the mixed-breed mustang is unique to the United States, McGuire said.

"It's also unique in the fact that, having to evolve in the wild, it developed very hearty characteristics," he said. "It is very sturdy, very agile, very intelligent. It responds very well to handling."

The Griffins hope their new charge eventually will take a shine to their three granddaughters, after the 400-pound yearling gets used to her home south of Lufkin.

"The fact they are wild animals, and a part of Americana, we thought it would be a good thing to give one of them a home," Kay Griffin said.

Her husband, who is president of the Corrigan Lion's Club, said it was important to them to participate in the national conservation program.

"We have a lot of passion for the program," he said. "But a lot of people are just not aware of the program at all. I hope to educate people and have them out to the ranch and see the program. And hopefully, they'll get excited and adopt also."

McGuire said about 40,000 horses and burros roam the 250 million acres under the Bureau of Land Management's oversight. Most are in Wyoming, Nevada and Utah, he said. Herds are increasing by about 20 percent a year.

"Our objective is to make sure the herds survive and thrive, but do so in a way that is not damaging to the land," he said.

McGuire said a recent increase in the numbers of people abandoning horses has "definitely been part of the conversation," but the bureau has no policy about that issue.

"Our primary outlet for horses and burros removed from the range is adoption," he said. "It's also a way for people to participate directly in the management of this resource. There's more to it than just adopting a horse. You're also participating in the larger effort to maintain this national resource."



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