Nevada policy change sells its wild horses by the pound

 Cross-posted from The Examiner
By Carrol Abel
Some of the Virginia Range horses to be sold at auction by the pound
Some of the Virginia Range horses to be sold at auction by the pound
Photo credit: S. Bains

Not many people are aware that the state of Nevada is the legal owner of all wild horses in the state except those on public lands. Fewer yet are aware that Nevada will be making their horses available at a September 19th livestock auction where they will be sold by the pound.

“A livestock auction sale yard does not differentiate whether a person is a horse lover or a kill buyer that’s the unfortunate part of this,” stated Ed Foster , Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) spokesman, on a News 4 broadcast in Reno, Nevada.

Kill buyers transport horses to slaughter across the border. The meat then ends up on dinner plates in other countries.

Late in 2011 NDA Director, Jim Barbee, created a policy in which horses removed from the range were offered to the public on a first come first serve basis for a price of $90 each. These sales were open to “anyone with a checkbook”, but most attendees were wild horse advocates.

The announcement of a change in policy resulted in an overwhelming number of calls to Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval. Most of the calls were referred to Mr. Foster. Governor Sandoval’s office had not responded to this mornings questions at the time of publication.

In conversation with, Foster cited the reason for a change in policy centered around the third public sale at which the advocates did not buy the horses from NDA, but waited and purchased them at auction. “They kind of jerked our chain a little bit”, said Foster. “I think the Director had a very reasonable offering to the groups to have these horses before anybody else had a chance to. They basically spit on that and I don’t think the Department was willing to go through this little exercise again with them.”

Advocates cite questions regarding the legality of the paperwork involved at that particular sale and say they were advised by their attorney not to participate.

There were subsequent sales in which the advocates purchased all the horses made available to them. Why would Director Barbee change policy after successful sales?

Foster stated he was not aware of any subsequent sales and was doubtful they had occurred, but promised to look into it.

The 23 horses involved in the auction were removed as “nuisance” horses along the Virginia Range foothills of east Reno. Foster indicated in the broadcast that Virginia Range horses were coming down into residential areas of Reno because they were starving. When asked about emergency planning by, he stated, ” There is no emergency plan for the horses due to the drought… The big picture is, and this is the rule of the planet, it’s survival of the fittest.” Foster spoke of the lack of funding and went on to point out, “There’s nothing other than for us to respond to citizen complaints regarding the horses.”

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