This is Part Four 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.
MISREPRESENTATIONS AND THE|
PLIGHT OF THE CLEAN WATER HORSES
Lies, corruption and lawbreaking are the usual course of business for the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA.) That allegation may sound extraordinary, however there are plenty of documents, recordings, videos and other evidence with which to back up those claims.
Beyond former Director Tony Lesperance's routine lies to the public and State Legislature, some departmental staff have been engaged in some pretty sordid behavior including threatening to kill orphan foals if advocates didn't do favors for the director.
Link: State vet threatens to "dispose" of orphan foals
Link: Landfill Foals: LaRussa does it again
When confronted with evidence that Virginia Range horses were being illegally sold by NDA at the livestock auction, former Director Tony Lesperance falsely claimed that the horses had "saddle marks." (NDA has more leeway in disposing horses having "physical signs of domestication" than with Virginia Range horses that by law are "feral" state property.)
Advocates were tipped off by a state worker that NDA was slipping Virginia Range horses across the state at taxpayer expense to Kevin D. "Ole" Olsen in Elko.
The following excerpt is from Nevada Department of Agriculture sends horses to slaughter dealer.
"On Thursday morning, December 3, 2009, Nevada State Brand Inspector Daryl Peterson was observed directing inmates at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center to load eight Virginia Range horses into a Nevada Department of Agriculture gooseneck horse trailer. The pickup towing the trailer was also identified as belonging to the Department of Agriculture and was driven by Peterson. The trailer contained seven horses that the Department had trapped in the Damonte Ranch area near Southeast Reno and one horse trapped in the Virginia City Highlands community north of Virginia City.
"Peterson, the pickup and trailer were observed traveling in the direction of Elko, NV. Animal welfare volunteers contacted the Washington D.C. based Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA,) expressing concerns that Director of Agriculture Tony Lesperance, a former Shovel Brigade thug and Jim Gibbons appointee, was making good on his threats to send Virginia Range horses (Nevada state property) to slaughter. [Citation: Las Vegas Review Journal]
"Meanwhile Lt. Northrup, NDoA’s Northern Region Enforcement Supervisor, who had previously claimed no knowledge of the horses, was observed in the state pickup with Inspector Peterson outside Elko headed to Meadow Valley Ranch, owned by slaughter dealer Kevin D. (Ole) Olsen. [Citations: TruckAccidents.com, SaveDaHorses.org]"
(End of excerpt.)
There are other incidents too numerous for the typical web visitor to want to wade through.
If anything the conduct of NDA has become more brazen. Director Barbee has decided that in spite of the law and an explicit legislative record on the subject, that the Virginia Range horses are estray, not feral, and he can do whatever he wants with them.
Link: NV Dept. of Ag "nabs" JJ
NDA continues to refuse to let the non-profit groups return to the business of helping control the herd and place horses that had to be removed from the range. When the non-profits complain, NDA officials fabricate complaints and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the non-profits in addition to misrepresenting the overall condition of the herd.
"It's like they make this stuff up, then they expect everyone to believe it."
NDA justified the removal of the Clean Water horses by describing them as "nuisance horses." Nuisance horses are ones that have settled into residential neighborhoods. According to local residents, the horses that were removed ranged in a remote area. There is a suspicion that what NDA did was remove a band that included a foal with a lower lip defect that Director Barbee refused to allow the local non-profit group have treated by a veterinarian, and for which NDA drew public criticism.
What is difficult for many Nevadans to fathom is why our former Attorney General turned Governor is apparently refusing to straighten out any of this business. Perhaps if the international public once again reacts, Nevada gets placed on the "Do Not Visit" list and a few hundred more jobs in the tourism and gaming sector are lost, someone in Carson City might take notice. Nobody wants it to come to that, except perhaps at NDA and the Governor's Office.