Story by Scott Sonner
Advocates Plan to Protect Wild Mustangs Purchased
RENO, Nev. — Wild horse protection advocates say they have successfully saved dozens of free-roaming horses in Nevada from the slaughterhouse by purchasing them for several thousand dollars at a state auction in Fallon.
Shannon Windle of the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund says she wrote a check for $7,720 to the Nevada Agriculture Department late Wednesday for 29 of the 41 horses the state captured southeast of Reno in recent weeks.
The state says they pose a danger to motorists on area highways.
Windle says she recognized at least two bidders at the auction who would have sold the animals for slaughter. But she’s confident a group from nearby Stagecoach that bought eight horses and the individuals who purchased the rest will help protect the mustangs.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Wild horse protection advocates were confident they had raised enough money to buy 41 horses at a state auction in Nevada on Wednesday, animals they feared otherwise would be headed to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Carrol Abel of the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund told The Associated Press she could not estimate the total cost but was prepared to spend thousands of dollars if necessary at the auction late Wednesday in Fallon, about 60 miles east of Reno.
“Once we get them, they’ll be placed in safe pasture and we’ll be looking for (permanent) homes,” Abel said.
The vast majority of the money was raised by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national coalition of more than 50 groups including the Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Campaign spokeswoman Deniz Bolbol confirmed they believed they had collected enough money to keep the mustangs out of the hands of so-called kill buyers.
So far, the coalition has provided the Hidden Valley group with a check for $20,000 “and donations are still coming in for the care of the horses,” campaign director Suzanne Roy said Wednesday.
The stray horses don’t enjoy federal protection because the U.S. Bureau of Land Management determined long ago there were no wild herds on federal land in that area when Congress passed the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Bureau Act in 1971.
Instead, these “feral” or “estray” horses are considered property of the state, which captured them because of the threat they pose to motorists when they wander onto state highways along the Virginia Range southeast of Reno.
State officials believe there are about 2,500 of the animals on private and state lands near Virginia City. More than three dozen have been hit since summer on three rural highways in Lyon and Storey counties around Silver Springs and Virginia City.
“We are damn lucky nobody has gotten killed,” Nevada State Agriculture board member Ramona Morrison said last week.
Until this summer, the state made the horses available to advocacy groups for purchase before proceeding to public auction. But that policy was suspended in August after one group re-released the animals to the range in violation of the sales agreement.
Abel said she didn’t know the exact amount of money the groups had spent at previous auctions to save a total of 99 horses in recent months, but she was confident it totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars. Abel said in at least one instance, they had to pay an average of about $315 per horse – twice the normal price – because others bid up the price.
“And the cost of buying the horses is just the tip of the iceberg,” Abel said in reference to additional unspecified costs to transport, feed and temporarily house the animals while seeking permanent homes for them.
The advocates had urged Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to call off the auction and turn the horses over to them for free. Sandoval acknowledged he received 18,000 letters and faxes to that effect but said he believed the state Agriculture Department was bound by its own rules and regulations to round up the horses and sell them.
“There is no reason not to conduct the auction,” he told the Las Vegas Sun on Tuesday.
Bolbol said the donations to save the horses came from around the world, including Europe, Canada and South Africa.
“The powerful grassroots response to the plight of these 41 horses sends a clear message to every politician and government official engaged on the wild horse issue: citizens across the world value Nevada’s mustangs and expect the government to protect them,” she said.
Sandoval’s press secretary, Mary Sarah Kinner, said Wednesday that state agriculture officials had “productive meetings” in recent days with national advocacy groups including the campaign coalition about “proposed future solutions to managing feral and estray horses while also protecting the safety of the public.”
“Discussions are ongoing,” she said in an email to AP on Wednesday.
Bolbol said they look forward to working with Sandoval and the state on a plan that benefits “both wild horses and Nevada taxpayers.”
- Nevada Gov: No Need to Intervene in Wild Horse Auction (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Nevada Wild Horse Advocates Protest Horse Slaughter (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Nevada Wild Horse Advocates Fear Slaughter (rtfitchauthor.com)
- Nevada Board of Agriculture Discusses Horse Slaughter Plant for Virginia Range Wild Horses (rtfitchauthor.com)
- San Francisco and East Bay Residents Protest Killing Wild Horses near Reno (ppjg.me)
- Exclusive Photos: Reno Residents Riled Over NV AG Dept Wild Horse Cruelty (rtfitchauthor.com)