Local business fights to save wild horses

Local thrift store owner William Eaton is searching to find foster homes for 13 wild horses that will reach their 60-day limit in the state's holding facility Friday.

"There's a couple of ranchers here in the area who are willing to take them for a while," said Eaton, owner of The Sunrise Thrift Shop that benefits wild and domestic animals. "We just need some donations to be able to feed them."

The Virginia Range Estray Horse Holding Facility at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center will hold 30 horses for up to 60 days. Once the limit is up, horses are sold at an auction.

"They're auctioned off to the highest bidder," Eaton said. "That would usually be the slaughter house."

However, Paul Iverson, director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said all 120 horses that have been rounded up so far have been adopted.

"We've been very, very fortunate in that every horse we've brought into the facility has been adopted out," Iverson said. "That's a pretty good record."

He said the 13 horses in question will most likely be adopted as well.

"We're getting a tremendous response from people who want to adopt them," he said.

Eaton opened his thrift store Feb. 7 as part of a charity for animals. He works hand in hand with the Capitol City Humane Society to find homes for animals in the shelter.

He said he is working to develop a foster program for animals that are not adopted right away.

He said he hopes to find temporary homes for the horses until permanent homes can be found.

"I think the wild horse is a symbol of Nevada," he said. "I would hate to see them go the same way the buffalo did."

Iverson said taking the horses to an auction would be a final resort.

"We would not take them to any public auction, like to Fallon, unless we had an auction at the site first," he said.

He said that the adoption process is too strict for some who want to buy a horse. Adoptive owners must prove that they have adequate facilities to care for the horse and are monitored for one year before granted the ownership papers.

"Some people have a 5-foot fence and don't want to worry about a 6-foot fence," Iverson said.

He said those people often buy the horses at the auction and are suitable owners as well.

Still, he said if a horse is auctioned off rather than adopted, the state has no control over the care of that animal.

"We lose complete control," Iverson said. "However, that may not be bad in a lot of cases."

The state department of agriculture manages the Virginia Range, which includes about 360,000 acres in four counties extending from Carson City to Fernley and from Highway 395 to Highway 50.

"We only take horses off that are a danger or are in danger themselves because they're in the neighborhoods," he said.

He said the state also is experimenting with a program that gathers the horses that have come down into the towns and transplants them into higher areas away from the human population where there is plenty of water and forage.


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