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Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates

Governor Gives "Blessing" to Illegal Horse Sales

Would you
buy a horse
from this man?

Issue: The Nevada Department of Agriculture continues to sell Virginia Range horses without the legally required public sale notices, now with the "blessing" of Nevada's governor.

Priority: HIGH

Status: Working Incident

Date: December 21, 2011

Would you buy a pig in a poke? How about a feral horse from a street corner? Just when it seemed that the conduct of the Nevada Department of Agriculture couldn't get any more inexplicable, it appears that selling horses on a street corner out of a pickup truck is precisely what will happen next.

The following is a notice sent out by JoAnn Mothershead of the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

The director, with the blessings of the Governors Office, has changed the way
the sale will be handled. We are moving the location of the sale to a parking
lot at the corner of East Second Street and South Roop. Basically it is the
old Kincaid Building parking lot. This parking lot supports little to no
traffic and would allow our staff to communicate and complete the purchase
of the estray horses. We will then schedule the picking up the animals. We
are hoping this will be less of a distraction at the prison.

Second, we are suggesting a lottery drawing for the purchase of the estrays. 
Each group, represented by a separate fund source, will be assigned a number, 
we will then draw numbers from a hat; this will identify the order in which 
the horses will be purchased. First drawn can take 1 or all of the horses. 
We will continue down the list until the public has chosen all of the 
available horses. This will be a more equitable system and eliminates having 
to wait several hours to be first in line.

This will start at 10:00 on December 27th.

JoAnn Mothershead
Administrator, Livestock Identification
Department of Agriculture
4780 E Idaho Street
Elko, NV 89801

This "notice" was sent to a special small list of individuals and does not constitute the legally required notice of sale of state property.

Perhaps our former Attorney General turned judge turned Governor should read Nevada law. NRS 569.075 categorically requires that before the Department (of Agriculture) can sell the horses, it must publish a notice of sale in specific newspapers. And what Bizarro world have we come to where a state agency sells horses out of a pickup truck on a street corner? Our state government has apparently drifted off to into some alternative universe.

Rumor has it that the Department of Agriculture is no longer welcome to conduct its schemes on Department of Corrections property. After all, NDoC has a respectable reputation to protect. So why not sell horses from a seldom used street corner parking lot? Besides, prospective buyers can see fuzzy images of the horses being offered for sale, then get a number drawn from a hat to determine the order in which horses may be acquired. Given that historically only one "buyer" has appeared to acquire and place these horses, that being the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates, the department can probably get by with a pretty small hat.

Under state law the department has only two choices for disposing of Virginia Range horses. It can place the horses through cooperative agreements with legitimate non-profit groups, in which case the groups accept certain responsibilities to see that the horses are properly placed and cared for. Through these cooperative agreements the department can recoup its expenses incurred in taking up and boarding the horses and for its costs for placing the required "estray" notices when horses are picked up. Alternatively the department can advertise and hold a public sale, typically through consignment with one of the livestock exchanges in Fallon. The down side to that option is that the department has to pay additional costs and commissions and the net proceeds seldom come close to covering the department's expenses. Furthermore in the unlikely event that sale proceeds exceed expenses, the law requires that all "profits" be placed into a trust account in the event someone who lost a horse discovers that his or her horse was sold by the state.

In the last offering of horses that involved a band that the department removed from Mound House, the allied groups were the only "buyers" present, and they went along with the scheme to demonstrate that the allies would take and place horses that the department removed. However the sale was not legitimate as it was not properly advertised as required by law. The Alliance's offer to legitimize the sale by means of a simple cooperative agreement was met with absolutely no response from the department.

This latest "sale" is scheduled to take place on a Carson City street corner on December 27th. It will be interesting to see what comes of it. There is a strong likelihood that the allied horse groups will simply be spectators at this event. If there are no legitimate "buyers," the allies are prepared to retrieve the horses at a lower cost from the livestock sale, and the department will once again come out the loser.

If you have an opinion on this issue, you can express it to the following officials.

  • Governor Brian Sandoval
    101 N. Carson Street
    Carson City, NV 89701
    Fax: 775-684-5683
    Contact form: Contact Governor Sandoval

  • Director Jim Barbee
    Nevada Department of Agriculture
    405 South 21st St
    Sparks NV 89431
    Fax: 775-353-3638

  • Catherine Cortez Masto
    Nevada Attorney General
    100 N. Carson St.
    Carson City, NV 89701
    775-684-1100 (switchboard)
    FAX: 775-684-1108
    775-684-1189 (Edie Cartwright, Public Affairs Officer)

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