Lesperance at it again… Virginia Range / Mound House Horses Update, October 22, 2010
Posted by Texas Mustang Project on October 22, 2010
We appear to have resolved the “mystery” over a directive that came out last week regarding picking up Virginia Range horses. This directive was originally attributed to Governor Gibbons.
As most of you may recall, word got out that attributed a comment to the Nevada Dept. of Agriculture that the Governor had issued a directive to start picking up horses. The Governor’s office staff said that they didn’t know anything about it. Then word circulated that the Department had been the one to issue the directive and that the Governor had “signed off” on it, or words to similar effect.
Ms. Rombardo of the Governor’s office actually found a copy of this document and graciously forwarded it to me. It is now posted on the AOWHA web site. (This document can be viewed by clicking here.) The directive actually came from Director of Agriculture Tony Lesperance and according to the document, it was merely cc’d to the Governor’s office and wasn’t received by that office until the 19th. Therefore, according to the written record, Governor Gibbons did not initiate this action.
This document has a few problems associated with it beyond the strange use of the English language (i.e., directing a state employee to “start estraying.”)
One interpretation of the directive is that it can be used to place all the responsibility on Darryl Peterson who is employed as a brand inspector, not a horse manager. Peterson, a field person who sits at the bottom of the Department’s totem pole is routinely assigned blame for things gone wrong in the office.
In the directive Director Lesperance directs Peterson that horses picked up have to be advertised – a procedure that the office has failed to properly do on occasion, not Peterson whose duties are out in the field and do not include advertising. Based on our past experience with Director Lesperance, this statement appears to be a bit of misdirection. More importantly this “directive” includes a patently false statement.
Director Lesperance declares that the horses “must be sold at auction precisely as described in NRS 569.”
NRS 569.080 and NRS 569.075 indicate that the Department may sell the horses if they cannot be placed with a cooperator (e.g., the prison training program, qualified horse groups, etc.) NRS 569.080 is a little ambiguous since the language pertaining to placement through cooperators was added a few years after the original language indicating that the horses could be sold, however NRS 568.075 states,
“The Department may sell all feral livestock which it has gathered if the Department determines that the sale of the feral livestock is necessary to facilitate the placement or other disposition of the feral livestock.”
In reading the minutes from the State Legislature, the legislative intent here is unequivocally clear. Former Director of Agriculture Don Henderson proposed the added language because placement of horses through cooperators was preferential, and his department would not receive assistance from other agencies if horses were picked up and sold for slaughter. If the cooperators were unable to accept horses for placement, then the Department had the option to make a determination that placement alternatives did not exist in which case the Department was obligated to sell the horses.
The present Virginia Range horse fracas appears to boil down to two hot button issues.
1. Director of Agriculture Tony Lesperance has created the present “crisis” (horses showing up on highways) by refusing to authorize agents or cooperators to engage in the historic methods of controlling horses through “diversionary feeding” programs. In looking over historic data, the trend shows a four fold increase in horse-vehicle related problems since the diversionary feeding authorizations were rescinded. The present rash of horses-in-traffic problems is directly attributable to Director Lesperance.
2. Because horses that are removed are going directly to the auction, and in some instances horses have been sold without the legally required advertising (including to a kill buyer), it appears that neither the Nevada Department of Corrections nor the BLM will assist the state in picking up these horses.
I’m not sure what effect that development will have on NDoA’s ability to trap and remove horses. Nonetheless, these are the issues that are relevant at the moment and need to be satisfactorily resolved. Additional details relating to the history of the Nevada Department of Agriculture and Virginia Range horses can be viewed in the archived copies of AOWHA notices.