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Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates

Another Virginia Range Horse Sale Fiasco

Issue: The Nevada Department of Agriculture continues to sell Virginia Range horses without the legally required public sale notices. Dept. Director and blames the advocates.

Priority: HIGH

Status: Working Incident

Date: December 28, 2011

I hadn't had my morning coffee before I was being contacted by representatives of the news media. "You have to see what Director Barbee just put out," were the incredulous comments. One of the News Directors forwarded a copy of the press release which has been uploaded here.

A Channel 4 posting of the press release and some revealing comments can be seen here.

In response we issued our own media release, substantiated by a videotape of the event, that establishes what really happened.

Furthermore, reports have been coming in indicating that at least one Facebook post claims that Horse Power acquired the horses. In checking with the department personnel this morning, such claims are untrue.

The Alliance media release speaks for itself. Reference documents follow.

Details from December 27 Virginia Range horse "sale."

For any of you who may have read the press release issued by the Nevada Department of Agriculture dated 12/27/2011 that claimed that the allied horse groups refused to take the Virginia Range horses being offered, here is what really happened. This activity was recorded on videotape so the actual events that took place have been documented.

Representatives from groups affiliated with the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates, interested residents and a student member of the Berkeley Law Review came to the sale to participate and observe. There were no parties present that were interested in acquiring the horses, as was the case with the previous horse sale. (The Alliance was the only "purchaser" at the December 6 sale.) As was the Alliance's position at the previous horse sale, the Alliance was again prepared to acquire the horses and reimburse the department for its expenses in the event no qualified and humane buyers were present.

The Alliance raised one condition, that being that any transaction had to comply with Nevada State Law. NRS 569.075 specifically states that before horses may be sold, the department must place certain legal notices in accordance with the provisions of that section. The only exception allowed is if the horses are placed through NRS 569.031 cooperative agreements. These agreements, in use since the 1990s, outlined the respective responsibilities of both the department and cooperators and ensured an orderly process for receiving and placing horses that were removed from the Virginia Range.

The Alliance position was, "We brought a check to pay for the horses. Cover this transaction under an agreement so it will be legitimate and we'll be done here."

The Advocates were first informed by Mr. Ed Foster that the group Horse Power had agreed to take the horses if there were no "buyers." The Advocates deemed that option to be reasonable and that Horse Power should go ahead and take the horses. Foster returned from making a phone call and indicated that Horse Power's position was now that they would pay for the horses but the Let 'Em Run Foundation had to go on record as the buyer. To the Advocates, whomever paid for the horses was irrelevant as this "option" still made the Let 'Em Run Foundation party to an illegal sale, a point that was clearly made by the advocates.

Knowingly acquiring state property through an illegal sale is just as unlawful as receiving stolen property from a street corner thug. If a transaction violates the law, each party has a responsibility to not get involved.

According to Foster, Director Barbee refused to legitimize the transaction by means of the required NRS 569.031 cooperative agreement so the Advocates respectfully informed Foster that they would acquire the horses at the livestock sale in Fallon.

The laws governing the Virginia Range horses are clear and explicit. Director Barbee cannot design whatever scheme he wants if such a scheme violates state law. Furthermore, for purposes of "disposition" under the law, NRS 569.008 defines the Virginia Range horses as "feral livestock." As distasteful as that term might be to some, it is the definition found in the law and Director Barbee's insistence that they are "estrays" is simply an illusion not supported by law. ("Estrays" are animals that are simply someone's unclaimed privately owned livestock that are found wandering at large and that fall under a much more liberal section in the law.)

Where the taxpayers will come out on short in Director Barbee's plan is when the department takes horses to the auction, the department incurs a number of otherwise unnecessary expenses including costs of required legal notices, board and care of the horses, personnel time, fuel, wear and tear on state equipment to transport the horses, plus the commissions paid to the auction yard. The proceeds from horse sales typically don't come close to covering the department's expenses. When the Nevada State Legislature created the cooperative agreement system, it built in a mechanism for the department to experience far fewer costs and to also recover all of those costs from the cooperators, resulting in no cost to the taxpayers. It is the cooperative agreement system that Director Barbee so strongly resists that is the true and legal "streamlined" policy that ensures both the safety of the horses and minimizes taxpayer borne expenses.

Director Barbee insists that he has "very few options" with respect to placing Virginia Range horses. However Director Barbee's options are clearly outlined in Nevada law. He simply needs to follow the law as the rest of us are expected to do.

In 2011 the horse groups associated with the Alliance accepted over 1,000 horses from various agencies and entities including the BLM, BIA, tribal governments and local animal services agencies. All of those transactions followed applicable laws. It is only reasonable for the Advocates to insist that the Nevada Department of Agriculture follow Nevada laws as the rest of us are expected to do.

Representatives from the Alliance will be present at the livestock sale in January to acquire the horses if the department still insists on taking them to auction.

Willis Lamm, Communications Officer
Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates

Supporting Documents:

NRS 569.008 (follows)
NRS 569.075 (follows)
NRS 569.031 (follows)

NRS 569.008 (The 2003 law that redefined the Virginia Range horses.)

NRS 569.008 “Feral livestock” defined. “Feral livestock” means any formerly domesticated livestock or progeny of domesticated livestock which have become wild and are running at large upon public or private lands in the State of Nevada, and which have no physical signs of domestication. The term does not include horses or burros that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Government pursuant to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331 to 1340, inclusive, and any regulations adopted pursuant thereto, or any other federal statute or regulation.
(Added to NRS by 2003, 2152)

NRS 569.075 (The 2003 law that established the legal notice of sale requirement.)

NRS 569.075 Sale of feral livestock gathered by Department; publication of notice of sale of feral livestock; sale of injured or debilitated feral livestock.

1. The Department may sell all feral livestock which it has gathered if the Department determines that the sale of the feral livestock is necessary to facilitate the placement or other disposition of the feral livestock.

2. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, before the Department may sell feral livestock, the Department must publish notice of the sale of the feral livestock in a newspaper published at the county seat of the county in which the gathering of the feral livestock occurred. If there is no newspaper published at the county seat of the county, the notice must be published in the newspaper published at the nearest point to that county seat. A notice of a sale published pursuant to this section need not include full descriptions of the feral livestock, but may include such information and details as the Department determines necessary.

3. The Department may sell injured, sick or otherwise debilitated feral livestock if, as determined by the Department, the sale of the feral livestock is necessary to facilitate the placement or other disposition of the feral livestock. If feral livestock is sold pursuant to this subsection, the Department shall give a brand inspection clearance certificate to the purchaser.
(Added to NRS by 2003, 2152)

NRS 569.031 (The cooperative agreement law. Established in 1993, and subsequently amended.)

NRS 569.031 Cooperative agreements for control, placement or disposition of livestock: Required provisions; annual review by Department; cancellation. The Department may enter into a cooperative agreement for the control, placement or disposition of the livestock with another agency of this state or with a county, city, town, township, peace officer, poundmaster or nonprofit organization. If an agreement is entered into, it must provide for:

1. The responsibility for the payment of the expenses incurred in taking up, holding, advertising and making the disposition of the estray or feral livestock, and any damages for trespass allowed pursuant to NRS 569.440;

2. The disposition of any money received from the sale of the livestock;

3. The protection of the rights of a lawful owner of an estray or feral livestock pursuant to NRS 569.040 to 569.130, inclusive; and

4. The designation of the specific geographic area of this state to which the cooperative agreement applies.

=> The Department shall annually review the actions of the cooperating person or entity for compliance with the agreement. The Department may cancel the agreement upon a finding of noncompliant actions.
(Added to NRS by 1993, 294; A 1995, 649; 1997, 462; 1999, 3683; 2003, 2153)

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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