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Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates

NV Dept. of Ag Plans to Dump
Virginia Range Horses at
Livestock Sale

Issue: "Trap and toss" horse management. Lies and possible illegal activities surrounding the Nevada Department of Agriculture's plan to dump Virginia Range horses at the livestock sale.

Priority: HIGH

Status: Working

Date: September 7, 2012

Quick Links

This is Part Three in a series on the Virginia Range horses and the Nevada Department of Agriculture. To understand the context of this report, please start at Part One.


The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) has a history of leaking information that it is "conducting investigations" into the activities of the non-profit groups and advocates when the department is being accused of wrongdoing. This cycle is repeating itself as NDA is presently attempting to send large numbers of Virginia Range horses directly to the auction yard.

NDA's initial justification for dumping the horses at auction was that the non-profit groups weren't taking the horses. When it was pointed out that the non-profits had taken all the horses that the Department had recently disposed of - in spite of expressing concerns over the lack of proper paperwork - NDA changed its story.

NDA then claimed that it was investigating the non-profits for animal abandonment, neglect and cruelty, and couldn't in good conscience turn them over to the advocates. (Had the allegations been true, it would be better to turn them over to the kill buyers?)


The "poster horse" that the department is using to support their allegations is a Virginia Range horse that the locals had named "Dickie." Dickie is a stout pinto horse that roamed around Mound House with his band. NDA picked up Dickie and his band in late 2011. The Let 'Em Run Foundation purchased Dickie and his band from NDA.

The agreement the advocates made with concerned local citizens was that Dickie and his band would be allowed, with the landowners' permission, to remain together on over 100,000 acres of private range among some cattle and other free-roaming Virginia Range horses. They would be released at the same spot that NDA had previously released 55 horses that they had relocated from urban areas. If any of the Mound House horses strayed off this authorized private range, they would be picked up and placed with private adopters. NDA was made aware of this plan.

Upon receiving the horses, Let 'Em Run discovered that NDA had clandestinely gelded Dickie. One of the advocates agreed to take Dickie if his mares were taken by other stallions and he became isolated, so the plan to allow the horses to live out on private range still moved forward.

The horses were regularly checked on, with an emphasis on Dickie, and a photo journal kept.

Around the end of March Dickie simply disappeared. One of the advocates circulated photos but nobody reported seeing the horse until mid-July (some 4 months later) when he suddenly turned up in a secluded area near south Reno.

Advocates in Hidden Valley indicated to us that they had seen a horse that looked like Dickie. They took photographs that suggested that they might be correct. Additional photos were requested. The additional views were pretty conclusive. An email and photo were then sent to Jo Ann Mothershead at the Nevada Department of Agriculture notifying her that the horse had been discovered "off the reservation" and that the volunteers would be picking him up.

A photograph taken of Dickie on July 14th used to compare with his "file photo" for ID.
NDA was notified of Dickie's discovery and that he would be recovered.
Dickie appeared to have put on weight, his hooves were somewhat unworn for an open range horse and this former wild horse acted very tame.

Two female volunteers were in the process of trying to locate Dickie and pick him up when they were confronted by Director Jim Barbee whose conduct they described as being aggressive. Their attempt to recover Dickie was impeded by Barbee and they subsequently filed complaints with the Nevada Attorney General.

Shortly after the complaints were filed, NDA started spreading information that the department was involved in an investigation of several horse groups for animal neglect, abuse and abandonment. Same strategy, different day. The cycle continues.

In a letter to Lacy J. Dalton, Director Barbee inadvertently admitted that his department violated NRS 574.055(2) by revealing that NDA had held Dickie for some three weeks although the law explicitly requires that owners be notified immediately when the department recovers livestock. An attorney is being consulted in this matter. As legal action against Director Barbee and NDA is being contemplated, publicly discussing further details about Dickie and the people who may be involved in this case is inappropriate at this time.

As a side story, advocates recently had a conversation with two retired NDA employees. One employee said, "Now you know why I quit."

When the subject was brought up that Director Barbee never returns phone calls, the other employee shrugged and said, "I worked for them for 38 years and he wouldn't return my phone calls either."

What is evident is that if things really heat up, a growing number of former NDA employees have quietly expressed a willingness to come forward and discuss what has been really going on in the department although most of them clearly hoped that things would get straightened out and settle down.

Post Script.

Dickie has subsequently been released and is now contentedly living with other horses and a private adopter in Carson City.

Continue to
Misrepresentations and the Plight of the Clean Water Horses

Return to Part Two

Return to Part One

"Jump" Links

History of the Horses
The "Clean Water" Horses
Public Reaction


Here are actions that you can take to protect the Virginia Range horses. Please remember that these horses fall under the jurisdiction of the Nevada Department of Agriculture and Governor Brian Sandoval. Here is contact information. You are encouraged to express your opinion in this matter. If you call, try to speak with someone in authority. Let's fix this business before more horses go to the kill buyers and we experience another tourism boycott!

The Virginia Range horses are not protected by any federal statute. The involved wild horse groups are just about all that stands between them and the kill buyers. Funds are always needed to protect these horses and to find homes and sanctuary opportunities for those that have been taken off the range.

Every contribution counts. The groups are all staffed by volunteers so the money donated actually goes to pay the expenses for these horses. Please help!


(PayPal donation button)
(To protect horses from illegal actions)


(PayPal donation button)
(To keep horses from kill buyers)

Misrepresentations and the Plight of the Clean Water Horses

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