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Nevada Governor Sandoval signs landmark bill to work with wild horse advocates



Carson City, Nev. – Yesterday, Governor Brian Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 264 into law, officially authorizing the Nevada Dept. of Agriculture (NDA) to form cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations and local government agencies for the management of wild horses, or mustangs. The bill also increases criminal penalties for unauthorized capturing, retaining, or feeding of wild horses. While the law mainly affects mustangs, it also extends to any livestock running at large on public or private lands, unowned or with unknown owners, including cattle, equines, swine, goats, sheep, poultry, and alternative livestock (such as llamas or elk).

This law is a major milestone for animal advocacy groups like the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), who describe themselves as a “coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.” Since 2011, the AWHPC and other animal advocates have resorted to buying mustangs from NDA to prevent them from being sold at public auctions, where they are usually sold to businesses for slaughter, according to Equine Policy Examiner Carrol Abel.
Location: Nevada State Capitol
39.164026 ; -119.76698

In September of 2012, NDA director Jim Barbee canceled this arrangement, forcing wild horse advocates to compete with other buyers at public auctions to save the animals from slaughter. This policy change “resulted in an overwhelming number of calls” to Governor Sandoval from concerned citizens, Abel reported. The protests finally came to a head last December, after shocking photographs were published on the Internet, of NDA security staff dragging a foal by her neck with a piece of twine.

In December alone, the governor “received more than 18,000 faxes, letters and emails urging him to work with wild horse advocacy groups to protect the … mustangs,” according to the AWHPC. Bo Rodriguez, the photographer who exposed the cruel abuse, responded to Internet comments on his pictures, “I did not enjoy taking these photos of the three week old foal being drug around by a piece of bailing twine, it was a long and traumatic [ordeal] for both protesters and horses. There has to be a better solution.”

That solution began a month later, in January 2013, when Governor Sandoval finally yielded to the immense public pressure, and state officials met with AWHPC and the ASPCA to discuss a cooperative, humane approach to controlling the mustangs. According to AWHPC’s website, this meeting ultimately led to a signed agreement in March 2013 between NDA and Return to Freedom (the parent organization of AWHPC), allowing them to once again buy the wild horses before they are publicly auctioned, and work to place them in permanent homes.

“We are pleased to enter into this agreement … as a first step in implementing a humane program for the historic and locally-cherished wild horses of the Virginia Range. We look forward to the next step … , … implementation of cooperative agreements for the range control of the … horses. A host of solutions – including birth control, fencing, and diversionary feeding and watering – are available to mitigate public safety concerns,” said Neda DeMayo, Founder and President of Return To Freedom, as reported on their website. Now that AB 264 has become law, the next step can begin, and the mustangs can finally run free.

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