Uncle Sam To Put Live Animals On Internet Auction Block

The U.S. Department of the Interior is taking seriously the federal government’s Congressional mandate to make better use of the Internet and electronic commerce opportunities in its daily business.

The department’s Bureau of Land Management has latched onto the Internet as a way to rebuild the mystique of the “Old West” while finding homes for horses and burros running wild on federal land.

The Bureau of Land Management opened its fourth Wild Horse and Burro Adoption auction on the Internet this week, offering up about 50 horses and burros, including 11 mustang mares with foals, and five burros with foals. The mother-foal pairs are to be sold together, with bidding starting at $250 per pair. Bidding for single horses or burros start at $125 each. The bureau said it has distributed more than 165,000 wild horses and burros since 1973, “to caring people who want to own a little bit of the old west.”

At the bureau’s Adopt-a-Horse Web site, visitors can view photos of the horses and burros up for adoption and read success stories of past adoptions. Those who submit an electronic application at the site will be called by bureau personnel to be screened as potential adopters, and applicants must submit via fax or snail mail drawings of their corrals and facilities to prove they will be good owners of the animals. Approved bidders may bid on their preferred animals from June 16 through June 30, and the highest bid is continuously updated on the site during the process.

Uncommon Practice

Putting live animals up for auction online is not common, largely because animal buyers usually want to see an animal live before offering their cash for it. The bureau solves this potential problem by agreeing not to hold the bidder to the purchase if the animal does not meet the bidder’s expectations upon arrival to pick up the animal. The animals are held in Salt Lake City, Utah, Kingman, Arizona, and Cross Plains, Tennessee. Animals rejected by the winning bidders are then offered to the second-highest bidders.

In exchange for the opportunity to buy animals at potentially low prices and the freedom to reject the purchase upon sight, the bureau puts its own set of restrictions on the buyers. For example, they must sign a contract with the government promising to care for the animals properly and seek legal title for them. The government also restricts the type of transport vehicle and restraining mechanisms the adopters may use for the animals. Finally, the bureau will help first-time adopters find “mentors,” people who have previously adopted animals through the government auction program, to help with the animals once the adopters return home.

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