Estray horse adoption likely |

Estray horse adoption likely

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Three animal rescue organizations have expressed interest in giving homes to 28 horses that were about to go on the auction block, and possibly to slaughter.

For six years, the horses stood in a corral at the Nevada State Prison and Stewart Conservation Camp as part of a birth control testing program.

On Oct. 17, a legal ad was placed by the state in the Nevada Appeal asking for whoever once owned the animals the state designates as “estray” to come forward or the animals would be sold. No owners came forward.

The birth control program grant, which paid for the animals’ hay, ran out and the state had no funds to take up the slack. The horses were expected to run out of hay by the end of October or in early November, at which point they could be sold.

The Nevada Department of Agriculture, which has legal jurisdiction over the animals that were taken from the Virginia Range in 2002, has issued a press release stating they would work with the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association to relocate the animals.

The release states the department has begun discussions with VRWPA to ensure the animals are cared for.

Jeanne Gribbin, president of the wild horse advocacy group, said her organization was in the process of purchasing the animals for $1 a head from the state, and will continue to house them at the Stewart facility until they can be transferred to one of the three interested sanctuaries.

“VRWPA has always been an excellent group to work with regarding the estrays on the Virginia Range,” Dr. Phil LaRussa, state veterinarian, said in the press release. “We look forward to working toward a positive, humane solution for the UNR study horses.”

Gribbin said two rescue groups, one in Nebraska and one in Oregon, were interested in adopting the horses. The Nebraska sanctuary, which already holds BLM horses, had 3,000 acres on which the animals can roam, she said.

“They are just going to let them go and live on the ranch,” she said. “I wouldn’t mind seeing them on 3,000 acres of pasture.”

She declined to name the two groups until negotiations were complete.

A third interested group is Wild Horse Safe Haven of Las Vegas, whose founder, Ann McCaughan, was in contact with estray program manager Mike Holmes, and arrived Saturday to look at the animals.

Her property is in Idaho, and she is hesitant to take the animals until spring, according to Willis Lamm of Least Resistance Training Concepts, who was looking for a local group to keep the animals until then.

McCaughan could not be reached for comment.

Gribbin said her organization was working hard to place the animals as soon as possible, and said she met with both LaRussa and state Department of Agriculture head Tony Lesperance, who expressed interest in working with her and starting a new birth control program for horses on the range.

Gribbin also said she was given assurances that the department would not be rounding up horses this year.

“VRWPA is very glad we are going to be mending fences with the Department of Agriculture,” she said. “I’m glad they are working with us on this, it’s about time. The fate of these horses lies with the Department of Agriculture.”

Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.