Bulletin from the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates
The Nevada Department of Agriculture is responsible for managing the free-roaming horses of the Virginia Range near Reno. The Virginia Range horses are a component of the Comstock National Historic District and the ones that Velma (Wild Horse Annie) Johnston first fought to protect. Over several years the Nevada Legislature has passed laws designed to protect this herd and set specific requirements for the disposition of horses removed from the range. The current Director of Agriculture, Tony Lesperance, tends to ignore these laws.
On Thursday morning, December 3, 2009, Nevada State Brand Inspector Daryl Peterson was observed directing inmates at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center to load eight Virginia Range horses into a Nevada Department of Agriculture gooseneck horse trailer. The pickup towing the trailer was also identified as belonging to the Department of Agriculture and was driven by Peterson. The trailer contained seven horses that the Department had trapped in the Damonte Ranch area near Southeast Reno and one horse trapped in the Virginia City Highlands community north of Virginia City.
Peterson, the pickup and trailer were observed traveling in the direction of Elko, NV. Animal welfare volunteers contacted the Chicago based Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA,) expressing concerns that Director of Agriculture Tony Lesperance, a former Shovel Brigade thug and Jim Gibbons appointee, was making good on his threats to send Virginia Range horses (Nevada state property) to slaughter. [Citation: Las Vegas Review Journal]
File Photo: Virginia Range horses at the Department of Agriculture holding corrals, Carson City.
As it became apparent that the horses were in fact being hauled to Elko, and after volunteers were unable to find any required notices of sale being published for the animals in question, Laura Leigh, of EWA contacted the Nevada Department of Agriculture to ascertain the status and disposition of the horses.
According to Leigh, everyone played dumb on the subject and she was referred to a chain of people within the Department of Agriculture including Director Lesperance. Not a single person at the Department claimed to have any knowledge about any horses. Leigh was then directed to contact Chris Collis in the Elko office, who in turn referred Leigh to Lt. Blaine Northrup. Northrup also claimed to have no knowledge about any horses but questioned Leigh on how she became aware of them.
Leigh next contacted Dale Leibherr at the Office of the Nevada Attorney General. Leibherr is a special investigator who in the past has been tasked with investigating allegations of improprieties at the Nevada Department of Agriculture.
According to Leigh, when asked to investigate this matter, Leibherr responded, “I investigate crime. Horses don’t commit crimes.”
Leigh said, “I replied that the people required to follow the laws that handle state property may be in the process of committing a crime. He told me he would only look at it if I provided him the proof. I told him the documents that would prove or disprove the crime are in the control of those possibly committing the offense and my requests (to them) for the documentation were not being responded to in any way. He said without my providing the documents he could not act.”
Meanwhile Lt. Northrup, NDoA’s Northern Region Enforcement Supervisor, who had previously claimed no knowledge of the horses, was observed in the state pickup with Inspector Peterson outside Elko headed to Meadow Valley Ranch, owned by slaughter dealer Kevin D. (Ole) Olsen. [Citations: TruckAccidents.com, SaveDaHorses.org]
It was suggested by a public official that Olsen was just “keeping” horses, however collecting horses as pets is not within Olsen’s ordinary course of business. Olsen is reported as a tenant of the C. Horse auction and slaughter horse collecting station, Moses Lake, WA. The collecting pens are rented by: Kevin (Ole) Olsen, DOT 975896, 1 Frontier Dr., Elko, NV 89801. When the Washington based group Animal Angels investigated the operation, they reported that they were told the following by a resident on the premises that all horses are owned by Ole Olsen. He keeps them there until they go to the “glue factory.” Mr. Olsen has people come out there to feed them, sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. He himself never goes back to the pens or checks on the horses. The auction has a horse sale once a month. [Citation: Kaufmanzoning.net]
Lies are not uncommon within the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Last year Peterson was allegedly ordered to prepare an falsified brand certificate that was used to dump a couple dozen Virginia Range horses in Oregon. Lesperance has been accused of making false statements to the State Legislature in attempts to get money for his department. When challenged over false statements made by himself or his personnel, Lesperance’s typical response is, “Those activists twist what I say.”
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s office seems to do little better. While investigating extortion allegations against state officials (possibly involving Director Lesperance,) the Attorney General’s office lost track of some documents and at one time lost the entire file. When this scenario was presented to a couple of local Nevada law enforcement officials, the most polite (and only printable) response was, “You want the AG’s office to investigate anything? Good luck.”
Leigh stated, “Nevada does have laws and at some point someone is going to enforce them. If this deal was legal, and state laws do permit sales, why all the secrecy?”
Ole Olsen Interview
What you can do
You can contact the following public officials, complain about the conduct taking place at the Nevada Department of Agriculture, and demand an investigation.
- Governor Jim Gibbons
101 N. Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Contact form: Contact Governor Gibbons
- Director Tony Lesperance
Nevada Department of Agriculture
405 South 21st St
Sparks NV 89431
- Catherine Cortez Masto
Nevada Attorney General
100 N. Carson St.
Carson City, NV 89701
775-684-1189 (Edie Cartwright, Public Affairs Officer)
John Holland, President of EWA, indicated that they were watching this situation closely and will follow through with any necessary action.