Sunday, December 13, 2009

No Merry Christmas for 8 Wild Horses

Virginia City News

Wild horses on the Virginia Range. Photo by Morgan Webber
Wild horses on the Virginia Range. Photo by Morgan Webber
Editor's Note: This is the first in a series about the issue of wild horses in Nevada.
By Karen Woodmansee
Virginia City News
Thursday, December 10, 2009
There won't be a merry Christmas this year for wild horses, either those whose range is on private land or those on public land.
Wild horse advocates are upset that the Nevada Department of Agriculture has sold Virginia Range horses to a horse broker in Elko with a reputation for selling the animals to slaughterhouses.
According to Shirley Allen, who runs Lucky Horse Rescue Corral for Least Resistance Training Concepts, eight horses that had been kept at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center after being captured in the Steamboat Parkway/Carat Drive area, were driven to Elko, and turned over to Kevin Ole Olsen, a horse broker in the Elko area.
A review of legal ads in area newspapers indicates an estray notice was placed in the Reno Gazette Journal on August 21, but no notice of sale was found, according to a staff member in the legal department of the newspaper.
An estray notice indicates horses were rounded up and gives the owners a certain amount of time to reclaim them. A notice of sale indicates the animals will be sold and gives others an opportunity to bid on them.
Tony Lesperance, executive director for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, confirmed the sale to Olsen and said the sale was properly advertised, though he could not provide publication dates.
He said he was doing as much as he can within budgetary constraints.
Chris Collins district brand inspector in the department's Elko office did not return calls seeking information on legal advertisements.
The eight stallions ranging in age from 2 to 5 years could be sold to slaughterhouses in Mexico unless Olsen trains them and sells them locally, though the horse broker said last year in an interview with the Helena (Montana) Independent Record that it's harder to sell horses with the economy the way it is.
"Stopping horse slaughter in this country was the worst thing that ever happened, because people don't have a market to take their animals," said Olsen said to the paper in a Nov. 16, 2008 article.
He buys some horses to be trained for resale at other auctions and others that end up in Mexican slaughterhouses, the article said.
In 2007, 106,963 American horses were slaughtered in Canada and Mexico.
In the article, Keith Dane of the Humane Society of the U.S. described conditions in Mexican slaughterhouses
He said when horses finally get to the facility, they are knifed several times in the spinal cord, rendered paralyzed but not unconscious before slaughter.
Lesperance said he doesn't wish that fate on horses, but is limited by a budget he has to cut by 3 percent and doesn't have money to feed horses. He said the only horses his department collects are those causing damage in neighborhoods, like the 8 on Steamboat Parkway.
We have done our level best, he said. We can't leave the horses eating people's lawns and trees. On the Virginia Range, several have been hit by cars.
He said he ran ranches all his life and it broke his heart the only time he put down a horse.
But Allen said that wild horse groups could raise funds for hay or find homes for horses, rather then sell them to brokers.


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