Reno, NV – October 28, 2014 – Today, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), the coalition created by Return to Freedom, responded to the Nevada Department of Agriculture's (NDA’s) press release issued earlier today regarding the removal of Virginia Range wild horses from the range.
"Governor Brian Sandoval’s office and the NDA are dragging their feet on the proposed pro-active, public/private partnership solution to the wild horse issue that was offered to the state and approved by the legislature last year. As they continue this delay, the state is, instead, spending state funds to conduct horse removals that could have been prevented with humane management on the range,” said Deniz Bolbol, communications director for AWHPC. “Every day that passes is another lost opportunity for preventive, on-the-range measures to mitigate horse-human conflicts and the implementation of a humane fertility control program to reduce the number of horses on the Virginia Range. The cost of this delay is steep, both to the horses who lose their freedom and families when captured, and to the public.”
Bolbol continued: “NDA's delaying tactics are jeopardizing the public/private partnership as well as significant donated funds to implement concrete steps to solve problems, as opposed to the NDA’s current Band-Aid approach of removing horses.”
AWHPC and local organizations have highlighted to the NDA and Governor Sandoval’s office specific measures that are needed immediately to address concerns about public safety. These measures include diversionary feeding, fencing construction and other actions to prevent horses from entering into urban areas and roadways. Both AWHPC and local organizations and volunteers have repeatedly stated that they stand ready to work as true partners with the NDA to humanely manage the Virginia Range horses and to implement a fertility control program as soon as possible.
Last October, local wild horse organizations and Return to Freedom/AWHPC submitted a comprehensive proposal to NDA that outlined how local and national organizations would work together to implement public safety measures to prevent horses from going onto roadways and into urban areas where they pose a public safety hazard. Last June, Governor Sandoval signed legislation paving the way for the NDA to enter into management cooperative agreements with advocacy organizations.
In March 2013, Return to Freedom, AWHPC’s parent organization, signed a cooperative agreement with the NDA that provides for first option to purchase any Virginia Range horses captured by the state. However, over the last 18 months, the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund and other groups have rescued nearly 200 horses captured and removed from the Virginia Range by the NDA. At this time, sanctuaries and rescue groups are full and limited in their ability to absorb more captured horses. At least 28 Virginia Range horses are being held currently by NDA – the fates of the majority of these horses is not yet known. It is likely that groups will not be able to rescue this number of horses, and that some will be sent to the slaughter auction.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, is a coalition of more than 70 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.
Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America's wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation. RTF provides refuge to 400 wild horses at its California-based American Wild Horse Sanctuary.