Listen: Wild horses, burros up for adoption

MPR's Perry Finelli interviews a U.S. Department of Interior Department wild horse specialist and burro purchaser at St. Cloud’s Sales Barn, where wild horses and burros have a chance at finding a new home.


1987 Minnesota AP Award, honorable mention in Feature category


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SPEAKER 1: Come on, babes. Come on, white.

PERRY FINELLI: With some gentle prodding, the animals leave the trucks they've been in since the eight-hour trip from Bloomfield, Nebraska began and led into stalls. The horses and burros have been kept in a holding center in Bloomfield since being captured, and are now ready for adoption. Some have been there just a few months. Others more than a year.

Interior Department wild horse specialist John [? Winnett ?] [? Penix ?] says all 160 horses and burros at the St. Cloud's Sales Barn are male. He says judging from previous adopted horse programs, the mares or jennies are definitely in higher demand than the males. And that of the two species, well, there's no question there either.

SPEAKER 2: The burros are by far the most popular, and the jennies. If you can get a jenny-- if we can get 500 jennies in here, I think they'd all go. But you have to go with a sex ratio that we can round up. The jennies, the burros, are the most popular, then the horses. Usually the younger animals go first, and then the older animals.

PERRY FINELLI: For $125, a person can adopt a horse. The burros cost $75. After one year of being owned by the federal government, the title to the animal may be transferred to the adopter, provided that person can prove the animal has been well taken care of.

John [? Winnet Penix ?] says although it's uncommon, there have been reported cases of mistreatment to both the burros and horses. There are a few rules governing the adoption program. The animals can't be used in rodeos or sold for slaughter. And the individual must have a fence 6 feet high and at least 400ft of space for them to roam. [? Winnet ?] [? Penix ?] says people who come to check out the wild burros and horses are often surprised at how tame they actually are.

SPEAKER 2: Generally, people look at the horses, and they said, well, I didn't expect anything this nice. They didn't expect to see a horse that looked like this. They expected to see a broom-tailed scrub-looking horse that was all scarred up and bleeding, maybe, and fairly thin.

That's what they expect to see. What they see is some really nice horses. Some slick horses that have put on a pretty good coat of hair and flesh.

LESLIE DUNCAN: Now you can't get nicer things for kids than these. That's one nice thing about them.

PERRY FINELLI: Leslie Duncan owns 120 acres south of St. Cloud where he keeps the four wild burros he adopted seven years ago at a similar event in Omaha. The 68-year-old retired truck driver says the animals have never been a problem, and are easy to care for.

LESLIE DUNCAN: Yeah, there's nothing-- no bother at all. Heck, no. You can believe it. That's why-- it's just a string down here is a gate, that's all, so they don't get out on the road. They won't go through nothing that way after they get used to you.

But as I say, they're a little first never been handled. You just take it easy with them. And pretty soon, they're just like a dog following you all over the place.

PERRY FINELLI: Duncan figures it cost him less than $5 a month to provide for the burros. He says they eat anything, including potato chips and popcorn. Duncan says getting a burro is like getting a watchdog because it's [? haller ?] can be heard from just about anywhere on the farm Duncan says he hardly realizes they're even around anymore. But he adds that his family, especially the younger members, wouldn't do without them.

LESLIE DUNCAN: Yeah, they're good natured. They're better than any Shetland pony there ever was for kids.

PERRY FINELLI: In Collegeville, I'm Perry Finelli.


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