My phone didn’t stop ringing yesterday afternoon with people calling who were concerned about the following press release. (The concerns that people raised follow the copy of the press release.) ~Willis
The NV Department of Ag, Office of the Attorney General, the Nevada Department of Corrections, the Governor’s Office,& HORSE POWER
by Horse Power on Friday, October 21, 2011 at 4:16pm
Nevada Department of Agriculture to Begin Collection of Nuisance Estray/Feral Horses near Highways
Sparks, NV 10-21-2011 – The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) will begin trapping nuisance Virginia Range estray/feral horses near highways today. This action is a result of over 30 horses being hit on highways 50 and 95 by vehicles over a period of less than two months.
“We planned to begin this collection of nuisance estray/feral horses two weeks ago but needed private property owner’s permission to set up the panel traps,” said Ed Foster, NDA spokesperson. “We finalized that agreement with property owners today,” he added.
The Virginia Range horses fall under the jurisdiction of Nevada estray/feral laws. The NDA is responsible for carrying out those laws.
This estray/feral horse collection does not have a time limit. Captures will be compared to equine/vehicular interaction data on a daily basis.
This collection will strictly follow Nevada estray/feral law (NRS 569). After capture, the horses will be transported to the Stewart Facility in Carson City and held there until they are photographed, branded and advertised per statute. Through a special agreement with the Nevada Department of Corrections, these horses will be auctioned off to the highest bidder at the Stewart facility rather than Fallon livestock auction yards. Notice will be given as to when this event will occur. This change in practice will reduce operational costs as well as staff time resulting in increased efficiency.
This agreement is a collaborative effort by the Nevada Department of Agriculture, Office of the Attorney General, the Nevada Department of Corrections, the Governor’s Office, the horse advocacy group HORSE POWER, and concerned private property owners.
( Working together for the Horses )
So here are the concerns being raised.
NDoA appears to be using Horsepower and NDoC’s Stewart Conservation Camp as a means to “sanitize” the auctioning of Virginia Range horses. NDoA has apparently found a way to cut out the middleman (the auction yard) and the kill buyers will simply go to Carson City instead of Fallon to acquire their horses. Historically, given the numbers of horses NDoA says that they will be bringing in, the kill buyers will be interested.
I’ve had people ask me if this means that their wild horse license plate money might be used to facilitate the sale of horses to kill buyers and/or have asked, “What is my license plate money being used for?” I’d prefer not to speculate on that so I’d suggest that you ask Horsepower.
Here are the problems that I have with this scheme:
If NDoA and Horsepower wanted to prevent the horses from being vulnerable to the kill buyers, the law allows NDoA to enter into a cooperative agreement with Horsepower wherein Horsepower could be responsible for the placement of horses. Under the old agreements, the cooperators facilitated and monitored adoptions, and brand clearances (equivalent to titles) weren’t issued for a year and after adopters proved good care. The law doesn’t presently allow NDoA to write adoptions and set adoption requirements. That authority is delegated to cooperators.
If Horsepower wants to get into the horse auction business, that’s their decision. However I have concerns over what might happen to the inmate saddle horse training program if the kill buyers come to the same facility that the BLM horses use and remove Virginia Range horses. Much of the public does not distinguish between Virginia Range and BLM horses and such “auctions” could have a significant adverse public relations impact on BLM and the prison training program. (In my opinion the prison training program is our greatest asset with respect to horse placement in this region and its image needs protection.)
The law allows for the Nevada Department of Corrections to be the legal “cooperator” and establish adoption requirements, monitor adoptions and certify compliance. However Horsepower’s announcement simply discusses the horses being “auctioned off.” Also, historically back when Virginia Range horses went through the prison training program, one of the non-profit cooperators was legally responsible for facilitating the adoptions, not NDoC.
If there are some legally enforceable controls established to ensure that all Virginia Range horses removed from the range will not be at risk of being bought by the kill buyers or by a handful of private citizens who buy horses to turn over to the kill buyers, then this proposal could be a step forward. However if such protections are not part of the design of this scheme, I have to agree that it’s little more than a sanitizing operation.
Hopefully some clarifications will be forthcoming.
Sunday, October 23, 2011: Although the Nevada Dept. of Agriculture has stated that it is after “problem” horses that constitute highway hazards in Mound House, Silver Springs and Fernley, a horse trap has been reported by residents near Roy’s Road in central Stagecoach and Daryl Peterson was spotted looking over the horses behind Iron Mountain Estates.
It might pay for everyone to report any traps discovered so that we can keep track of what’s going on.