Lifting the Veil: AWHC FOIA Program

By Amelia Perrin, Investigations Manager

(November 13, 2022) One of the most important areas of our work at the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is our investigations program. The core of this program is using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request government records. FOIA is a federal law that empowers private citizens and groups to request access to public information that government offices may be unwilling to disclose. The goal of FOIA is to increase government transparency and to promote disclosure of government activities, rather than shrouding them in secrecy.  

FOIA is a key tool in our toolbox that allows us to uncover incredibly important, and sometimes damning information about the management of our nation’s wild horses and burros, including records that expose abuse and mistreatment during roundups, in holding, or in private care.

Right now, AWHC has over 80 active and open FOIA requests – and we are filing more every day.

Just like our observers who document violations at roundups in the field, our FOIA work sheds light on a number of other serious animal welfare issues hidden from the public. In the past two years alone, FOIA has helped us to uncover:

  • The horrific slaughter pipeline resulting from the BLM’s disastrous Adoption Incentive Program (AIP) which has landed at least 1,100 wild horses and burros in kill pens in under two years;
  • The deaths of 16 horses at the USFS’s Double Devil Wild Horse Corrals and the BLM’s Bruneau Wild Horse Off-Range Corrals;
  • The BLM’s use of IUD's in wild mares despite the lack of scientific research about the efficacy and safety of these devices in wild populations;
  • And so much more.

These concerning situations and more would remain hidden from the American people were it not for the information our team has gathered through FOIA requests, but the requests are only the beginning. In many cases, the BLM or Forest Service fails to respond to our requests within the legally-mandated time frame, forcing us to sue the agency to turn over the requested records.

As a result, we currently have 20 FOIA lawsuits pending against the BLM in various stages of litigation and expect to file even more suits soon. 

This important work would not be possible without the support of wild horse and burro allies like you. Your donations fuel our Legal Fund and empower us to take action to reveal the truth about what is happening to our cherished wild horses and burros in the wild, during roundups, in crowded holding pens and as a result of adoption and sale programs. We are so grateful for your commitment to standing with us as we fight for these iconic animals.

So, friends, on behalf of everyone here at AWHC, thank you!