NM Cow Board Attorneys Ask for Wild Horse Advocate’s Membership Information

Dave Tomlin, Ruidoso News

“members are not matters of public record and are entitled to confidentiality…”

“I want to know where YOU live!” ~ photo by Rick Harrison

State attorneys for the New Mexico Livestock Board have asked District Judge Dan Bryant to order the Wild Horse Observers Association to name all of its members in Lincoln County.

The Board’s lawyers say they need the list of names to support the argument they intend to make in the Alto wild horse case that WHOA may not have had the legal right to sue the Board in the 12th Judicial District over its seizure last year of a small herd of free-roaming horses.

“Plaintiff’s membership, particularly in Lincoln County, likely has a bearing on Plaintiff’s standing to sue, and therefore information (and/or records) about Plaintiff’s membership is an appropriate area of inquiry in discovery,” the Board’s attorney, Asst. Atty. Gen. Ari Biernoff, said in a “motion to compel” filed in the case last week.

The motion was aimed at forcing WHOA to comply with a number of document requests the Board made as part of its discovery demands in the wild horse case.

WHOA had earlier responded to the Board’s member list demand that its “members are not matters of public record and are entitled to confidentiality. Further the information is not relevant and is not likely to lead to relevant information concerning this lawsuit.”

But Biernoff pointed out in his motion that discovery demands don’t have to be limited to information that is “public record” and can extend to “anything of relevance to the claims and defenses in this action.”

The Board had also asked for all documents WHOA has about the wild horse herd or any other “wild, feral or estray horses” around Alto or Ruidoso. WHOA responded that the demand was “very broad and it is impossible to know what is requested.”

Biernoff said in last week’s motion that there was “nothing overly broad or confusing” about its demand, and Bryant should overrule WHOA’s objection.

WHOA also said it should not be required to furnish records relating to its officers or directors because they aren’t parties individually to the lawsuit. The Board’s motion insisted that discovery documents aren’t limited to those of named parties to the suit, and WHOA’s officers or directors may have acted on WHOA’s behalf on matters related to the case.

The Board also asked Bryant to reject WHOA’s argument that it shouldn’t be required to provide copies of WHOA’s communications about the case on social media just because they’re public and the Board can review those for itself.

“Undersigned counsel does not have a Facebook account, and so at least some portions of WHOA’s Facebook page are in fact unavailable absent discovery,” Biernoff wrote.

In addition to requiring WHOA to promptly turn over the documents he asked for, Biernoff asked Bryant to order the organization to pay the Board’s attorney’s fees for preparing and filing the motion to compel.

NM Senate Committee Passes Horse as Livestock Bill

Dianne L Stallings , Ruidoso News

“Wild Horse Advocates fear new provisions could lead to the elimination of wild herds…”

Members of the wild herd rounded up last year were photographed crossing at their designated point on the highway leading into Alto and Ruidoso.(Photo: Courtesy/Melissa Babcock)

Members of the wild herd rounded up last year were photographed crossing at their designated point on the highway leading into Alto and Ruidoso.(Photo: Courtesy/Melissa Babcock)

Local advocates for wild horse herds in New Mexico piled into a bus at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and headed to Santa Fe to voice their views on an amended version of a state senate bill they feared would lead to the elimination of wild horse herds that roam the Alto area north of Ruidoso.

Despite the efforts of advocates, they reported that members of the Senate Conservation Committee passed the bill in less than five minutes. A series of hearings led to modifications of the original bill submitted by State Sen. Pat Woods, a Republican from Quay County, that eliminates the classification of domesticated horse.

While under the amended version horses still would be lumped into the broad definition for livestock that fall under the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Livestock Board, specific exceptions were included for Spanish colonial horses and for a “wild horse” defined as an “unclaimed horse without obvious brands or other evidence of private ownership that is determined by the board to originate from public land or federal land or to be part of or descended from a herd that lives on or originates from public land; but does not include horses that are subject to the jurisdiction of the federal government pursuant to the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”

Public land does not include federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service or state trust land.

Under the amended version, a wild horse captured on private land in New Mexico at the discretion of the livestock board “shall be” humanely captured and relocated to state public land or to a public or private horse preserve; adopted by a qualified person (for an adoption fee); or humanely euthanized provided the option is the last resort when the horse is determined by a licensed veterinarian to be crippled or otherwise unhealthy or cannot be relocated to a public or private wild horse preserve or adopted.

A new section throws in another wrinkle for the future of “wild horses” such as the herds in Alto. That section in the amended bill provides when requested by the board to determine the viability of a specific New Mexico wild horse herd on the range they occupy, the range improvement task force of New Mexico State University will evaluate the range conditions to determine the number of wild horses that the range can support while maintaining its ecological health.

The task force will report the results of the evaluation to the board. “If required, the board may cause control of the New Mexico wild horse herd population through the use of birth control and may cause excess horses to be humanely captured” and relocated, adopted or euthanized…(CONTINUED)


Accord reached on the Alto wild horse herd

By Dianne Stallings as published in the Ruidoso News

State officials and herd advocates clear the air and move forward

Rock Star, whose sale to slaughter mobilized the community. (Courtesy)

Rock Star, whose sale to slaughter mobilized the community. (Courtesy)

The unnecessary death of an Alto wild horse gelding brought them together Wednesday for a meeting at the Ruidoso Racetrack Turf Club, New Mexico. Two hours later, herd advocates and representatives of the New Mexico Livestock Board shook hands and walked away with what both sides hope is a new system of cooperation and understanding that will lead to ensuring the safety of the horse herd.

One improvement already initiated as a result of the Alto incident is the ability to sign up for an email notification by the board when stray livestock is acquired by the state agency.

Speaking to Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca, District 20 Supervisor Troy Patterson and Brand Inspector Don Hatfield, herd advocate Tom Blaney said, “I think everyone will agree with me that our objective isn’t for conflict or to create more havoc. We want everything to flow through your mandates, but there are some questions about procedures, what do we need to do differently. The objective is for the horses to be adopted out, not just shipped off to the closest auction.”

Baca said that outcome also is one of the agency’s main objectives. “We don’t want these horses going to slaughter,” he said. “If we can get the horses to a good home, to a good place, our intention never is to send horses to slaughter. Our responsibility is for the well-being of the horses.”

“If we gather the animal up on private property, because it is hurt or something is going on, or you guys gather them up, how do we proceed from there, once we have an animal contained,” Blaney asked.

Baca explained a horse must be held for at least five days to give an owner a chance to claim the animal. But after that period, closed bids are accepted and a horse goes to the highest bidder. Before a horse is adopted, it is microchipped to establish ownership and given vaccinations.

Lynda Blaney said the adoption system soon will be tested locally as she and her husband are beginning the process next week with Hatfield for a mare from the herd who injured her leg. They’ve named her Misty.

Baca said if the horses have access to highways and can be a public hazard, a person can contain the horses and call an inspector. Once the inspector is called, he handles the process, including the notification.

“All these horses (in the Alto herd) are deemed running at large and a nuisance, so everyone has a right to pen them on their land, but they have to follow the statutes and notify the inspector,” Baca said…(CONTINUED)

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Judge Rules Placitas Horses are not Wild

Source:  Albuquerque Journal

by Rosalie Rayburn,  Journal Staff Writer

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A state District Court judge in Bernalillo County has ruled that the feral horses roaming Placitas are not wild and therefore fall under state livestock laws.

The Placitas-based Wild Horse Observers Association filed the case in February seeking to stop the New Mexico Livestock Board from picking up horses from private property in the village under a law governing estray livestock. They asked the court to declare that the Placitas feral horses are wild.

Judge Valerie Huling’s ruling issued July 16 said the Wild Horse Observers Association “failed to demonstrate that the horses at issue are not estray livestock and that the (Livestock) Board acted outside of its authority under the Livestock Code.”

Jordan Beckett, the Oregon-based attorney representing WHOA, said the organization is considering filing an appeal by mid-August.

“New Mexico’s wild horse statute distinguishes between horses that are livestock and horses that are wild, and Judge Huling’s opinion fails to take into account this distinction that is inherent in the statute and she simply calls all horses in New Mexico – wherever they are they are – livestock,” Beckett said in a phone interview.

Placitas resident Gary Miles, who is caring for many of the free-roaming horses, said he disagrees with the judge’s ruling.

“I think the judge is way off base.  None of these horses has been raised on a ranch – they are wild horses,” Miles said in an interview.  “She doesn’t know anything about horses if she thinks these horses aren’t wild.”

David Reynolds, the attorney who represented 12 Placitas residents who intervened in the case to support the Livestock Board, called Huling’s decision a “victory for wildlife habitat in the Placitas area.”

“It basically said that the Livestock Board has jurisdiction over the horses,” Reynolds said.

Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca said he never had any doubt that the board was following the law, but the ruling answered questions for Placitas residents who capture horses that stray onto their property and call the Livestock Board to pick them up.

The horses have long been a divisive issue in Placitas.

The Wild Horse Observers Association has fiercely advocated for the horses right to continue roaming freely.

Other Placitas residents claim the horse population has increased so much it outstrips the ability of the land to support them. They say the horses are damaging public and private land.

“We have been at the mercy of these people who demand that these horses roam and ruin our public and our private property and they continually say we have no right to round them up,” said Placitas resident Mike Neas.

NM Livestock Board Director Says No Placitas Wild Horse Roundup

Source: By as published on the ABQJournal.com

“We can’t trespass on private property to impound…”

Photo of Placitas Horses courtesy of wunderground.com

New Mexico State Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca says the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District has no authority to order his agency to round up the free roaming horses in Placitas.

Baca says the Livestock Board will assist in any way it legally can, but the horses are the problem of Sandoval County and property owners in Placitas.

“If they are trespassing on private property each owner has the right to impound those animals. They’re the custodian of their own property, we’re not. We can’t trespass on private property to impound,” Baca said.

Placitas residents estimate there are around 100 free roaming horses in the area. Many have raised concerns about the damage they are causing on public and private land and the dangers posed by horses wandering on the roads.

The Placitas-based nonprofit Wild Horse Observers Association has offered to remove about 40 horses it says are in danger on the roads. Association President Patience O’Dowd did not respond to requests for comment on the Coronado order.

Baca said by law impounded animals can be presented to the Livestock Board which has the authority to determine who owns them. If no owner is found the Livestock Board has the authority to sell them.

Coronado is an independent political subdivisions of the state, tasked with protecting the environment. Its district covers Placitas and surrounding areas. Its board issued the order on Monday saying the horses were damaging Placitas land and water sources and should be immediately removed.

Placitas resident Gary Miles, who will join the Coronado board next month, wrote to the Attorney General claiming the board violated the state Open Meetings Act by not properly giving notice about the order or taking public comment on the issue, among other things.

Coronado’s board member Jon Couch said in an email that the Placitas horse problems were on the agenda for June 4 public where the board discussed a draft of the order and unanimously voted to issue it to “to stop rampant soil erosion and overgrazing.”

Board members based their decision on a state law which says “estray” livestock, those found trespassing on land or running loose on public roads, are “subject to impoundment by an agent of the New Mexico Livestock Board,” according to an email from a Coronado staffer.

Click (HERE) to comment at the ABQJournal

Horse-Slaughter Advocate’s Video Spurs Investigation

Source: By Amanda J. Crawford & Alan Bjerga of Bloomberg.com

“It’s extreme cruelty, a penalty, to maliciously kill an animal,”


An employee of a New Mexico company that has sparked outrage for its plans to slaughter horses is being investigated for animal cruelty in connection with a video in which he taunts animal welfare advocates while killing a horse.

Tim Sappington, 54, may face charges over the video, said Bobby Pierce, the deputy director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, an Albuquerque-based law enforcement agency. Sappington is the only employee of Valley Meat Co. near Roswell, which is seeking to become the first company to run a horse-slaughter plant in the U.S. since 2007.

“It’s extreme cruelty, a penalty, to maliciously kill an animal,” said Pierce, who said he believes charges will probably result from the investigation, which began today. Valley Meat said it is evaluating Sappington’s continued employment.

Posted on the Internet several months ago, the video was widely circulated among animal-welfare activists this week after a March 19 Bloomberg News story on Valley Meat that featured Sappington. The video shows Sappington looking into the camera, addressing an expletive to animal rights activists and then firing a pistol-like device between the eyes of the horse, which falls to the ground trembling.

“We’re horrified by the video, and we are glad to hear that there’s an investigation going on,” said Keith Dane, director of equine protection for the Humane Society of the U.S. in Washington. “It appears this was made for publicity’s sake and to taunt animal lovers.”

Personal Consumption

Sappington, who said he eats horse meat two to three times a week, said he killed the animal for food. The full video, which wasn’t posted online, shows him skinning and gutting the animal, too, he said.

“I killed that animal for my consumption,” Sappington said in a telephone interview, before referring calls to an attorney. “If I had shot that thing in the guts or the legs or beat it and left it in the pasture for the coyotes to get at, it’d be a different discussion. I shot that for my human, my personal, consumption.”

It is legal to kill livestock for food, Pierce said.

“If he claims he was killing it for his own food, the investigation would take a different turn,” Pierce said.

Dane, whose organization opposes horse slaughter and is supporting a bill in Congress to ban the practice, said the video shows “a callous disregard for the life of an animal.” Horse slaughter is cruel and unnecessary and the meat from the animals may not be safe because of drugs given to horses during their lives, he said.

‘Seriously Concerned’

“If it indicates the type of person who will work at Valley Meat, we are seriously concerned,” Dane said of the video.

The company, which previously processed cattle at its facility about 8 miles from downtown Roswell, could begin slaughtering horses and shipping the meat to other countries as soon as three weeks, A. Blair Dunn, an attorney for Valley Meat, said March 15. The company is one of several that have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide inspectors so that they can begin operating. A federal law barring funding for the inspections lapsed in 2011.

Horse slaughter has been an emotional issue among animal- welfare advocates in the U.S., where eating of horse meat is rare and surveys show most Americans oppose the practice. Still, many farmers and ranchers say humane slaughter is necessary to dispose of unwanted animals…(CONTINUED)

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