Issue: The Nevada Department of Agriculture's intent to trap Virginia Range horses and send them to the livestock sale where they will be bid on by slaughter buyers.
Situation Report Summary:
The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDoA) 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.
Historically the NDoA entered into cooperative agreements with non-profit groups for the control and placement of Virginia Range horses. About 3½ years ago NDoA canceled the agreements with the non-profits. At that time advocates warned that the horses would start straying where they could cause problems including getting on busy highways.
NDoA subsequently abandoned all rational management of the herd, claiming that it had no funds to do so. (NDoA failed to mention that the non-profits raised the funds needed for their activities so it really didn't cost the Department anything for these programs.)
The result of this bizarre and in some instances illegal conduct of the Nevada Department of Agriculture has produced some significant public safety hazards along two highways, US-50 and US-95A, in Lyon County.
Now NDoA wants to start trapping and removing horses. In spite of a 2003 law that allows NDoA to place horses with non-profit cooperators (and in doing so recoup the Department's expenses) current Director of Agriculture Jim Barbee is fixated on sending the horses to the livestock auctions in Fallon where the horses are bid on by kill buyers.
Such an approach is not only bad for the horses, but other agencies that NDoA relies on for assistance have gone on record as not wanting to assist in any activities that result in horses going into the slaughter system. These other agencies want to protect their own reputations.
Finally, without some kind of credible management plan in place that involves assistance from the local non-profit groups, removing "problem" horses will simply make way for other horses to move in and past experience shows that new bands of horses not experienced with high speed traffic are actually more dangerous than the bands that presently occupy the highway corridors.
NDoA has demonstrated profound ignorance when it comes to managing horses, managing money (utilizing free resources) and providing for the public safety. Director Barbee seems disinterested in resolving this problem so it appears necessary to bring Governor Sandoval's attention to this problem.
We cannot allow a situation to develop where a state agency runs roughshod over local citizens, wastes money, lies to the public, contributes to a public safety hazard, sets a precedent that it is OK to send members of an historic herd to slaughter, and remain unaccountable for its actions.
What you can do
Contact Governor Brian Sandoval. State that it is unacceptable that the Nevada Department of Agriculture is putting the motoring public at risk because the Department refuses to work with the non-profit groups to control the horses. Also state that it is unacceptable for these horses to go to kill buyers when the State Legislature established an adoption placement program.
- Governor Brian Sandoval
101 N. Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701
Contact form: Contact Governor Sandoval
Contact NDoA Director Jim Barbee. State that it is unacceptable for Virginia Range horses to be sent to the livestock auction where they may be bought by the kill buyers.
- Director Jim Barbee
Nevada Department of Agriculture
405 South 21st St
Sparks NV 89431
If the Director's and Governor's phones and emails start filling up with calls about these unacceptable practices, someone will eventually listen. However it will take "people power" to ensure that this message will be heard.
"Rally for Solutions" scheduled for October 25th.
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