Time for state government oversight of the 3,000 horses that run the range in Storey and Lyon counties is ticking away. Just a month and 5 days remain for private parties to get their proposal in to acquire them. Horse advocates want to stop the whole plan. As American Wild Horse Campaign director Suzanne Roy told me, "This week we will be filing a lawsuit in state court here in Reno."

This latest battle stems from the state Department of Agriculture decision last December to transfer the horses in the Virginia Range to private ownership. People against the plan say they're concerned with what private owners might do to the horses. Louise Martin of the Wild Horse Connection in Reno said, "We don't want to see our wild horses in Nevada, Virginia Range gone and probably sent to slaughter."

Louise, Suzanne and other horse advocates at the press conference/rally they held today (Monday), are convinced the horses will go to what's called a kill buyer, who will sell them off to the slaughterhouse because, as Roy told me, “It’s logistically and legally impossible for a non-profit that wants to protect the horses to own 3,000 horses on 300,000 acres of land. Nobody can afford it. Nobody can take on the liability."

Louise Martin can't be sure the horses will end up slaughtered, but says you can assume the worst: "The only entity that could take private ownership of these horses is someone who's going to remove them."

Is there a possibility one of the advocate groups can submit a proposal and take ownership themselves? Speaking for the American Wild Horse Campaign, Roy told me, “No we can't do that, because of the liability issue and because it’s just flat out illegal what they're trying to do."

Groups interested in taking on ownership of the wild horses have to submit their proposal by April 16th. Until then, the power to overturn the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s transfer of horses to private ownership still rests with the governor.

In a statement the NDA says:

“Per the RFP (request for proposals) the intent is to place the ownership of the VREs (Virginia Range Estrays) with a reputable animal advocate organization that has the experience, knowledge, tools, resources and financial ability to manage the horses according to their needs. It is intended that the selected owner will work to keep the horse population on the range and will facilitate adoptions of any horses removed from the range.

“The NDA has consulted and intends to continue to consult with the Nevada Attorney General’s office to ensure the RFP is in accordance with NRS 569.010 and NRS 569.031. Under direction from the Nevada Board of Agriculture, it is within our authority to place (including sale or adoption) and control feral livestock. Per the RFP, once a transfer occurs, the NDA would have no liability or authority to make decisions about the VREs so transferred; however, the intent, scope of work and evaluation rubric give a full sense of the criteria the evaluation committee will be looking for in a potential owner.”