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Animal advocates make deal to buy 148 unbranded horses from tribe

August 23, 2013|By John M. Glionna
  • Sally Summers checks the rugged mountain landscape for wild mustangs in the Yerington, Nev., area last fall.
Sally Summers checks the rugged mountain landscape for wild mustangs in… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)

LAS VEGAS -- Arlo Krutcher was in the middle of a public relations nightmare and it was all over horses.

The vice chairman of a northern Nevada reservation had collected 400 horses off the Fort McDermitt Paiute Shoshone tribal grounds and had taken the animals to an auction house in rural Fallon for sale.

That’s when the animal advocates descended, he said.  There was finger-pointing and threat of lawsuits by activists. The sale was eventually delayed by a judge’s order, but last weekend 250 horses with brands that officials determined weren’t wild were auctioned off.

On Friday, the tribe made a deal to sell the remaining 148 unbranded horses to a coalition of animal advocates.

Krutcher told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that the tribe was being made out to be greedy mercenaries looking to bring the horses to slaughter.

“That’s the whole reason we came to the public auction,  to give the public a chance to buy those horses. After people buy them, it's their business what they do with them,” he said. “But these activists were making us out to be the bad people. If we were doing that, we could have sold those horses for slaughter right there at the reservation.”

Activists sued to stop the sale of the unbranded horses, alleging that unbranded animals probably were federally protected wild horses originating from the nearby Bureau of Land Management's Little Owyhee Herd Management Area.

The battle is the latest showdown between the federal government and animal advocates over the wild horses that wander the American West.

This week, a U.S. District Court in Reno lifted a temporary restraining order barring the sale of unbranded horses captured by the tribe under an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.

On Thursday, Judge Miranda Du ruled that the U.S. Forest Service had acted appropriately in determining that the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe is the animals' rightful owner and can't be stopped from selling them.

Krutcher told The Times he resented the attitude of the animal advocates and said the sale might never have happened had he not had a chance meeting with Reno-area advocate Sally Summers, founder of Horse Power, a group seeking better treatment of wild horses and burros.

“The rest came at us with lawyers;  she’s the one who got things rolling,” Krutcher told The Times.

Krutcher said the legal fees and those for boarding the horses were rising fast. He wanted to make a deal, but he felt his tribe was being treated with disrespect by people who acted like they were the only ones who knew about horses.

Then came his meeting with Summers on Sunday.

“I was walking to the end of the the sale yard to help feed horses and she was standing there,” he told The Times. "She said hello and we started talking.  She was the only one who came up to talk to me as a human being. The rest had stand-off attitudes. She was civil.”

Krutcher would not say how much the tribe received for the 148 horses but insisted it was not enough to pay for fees.

“We lost money,” he said. “I could have stuck it to them, for the expense and grief they caused us, but I didn’t.”

Not all of the horses were saved.

More than 300 branded horses were sold at auction Saturday. About 150 were purchased by residents and rescue groups and the remainder were purchased by kill-buyers.

Advocates say the money used to buy the horses came from a philanthropist.

“Thanks to the generous donation, we were able to take those horses home,” Summers told The Times. “It’s a big relief.”

Paula Todd King, a spokeswoman for the Cloud Foundation, one of the animal advocate groups involved in the purchase of the unbranded horses, said activists meant the tribe no disrespect.

“Knowing the market for horses right now, the tribe might not have intended to sell them to kill-buyers, but a lot of the horses went to kill-buyers anyway. That’s just the way it happens,” she told The Times.

She said the Cloud Foundation and other groups became involved because of a tip that the U.S. Forest Service had offered the tribe funds to assist in the roundup.

“We were very concerned that wild horses would be included in that roundup,” King said. “What we objected to was use of federal funds to transport and round up horses that would likely end up slaughtered, and that protected wild horses might be part of them.”

Krutcher said the U.S. Forest Service withdrew its funding after  pressure form animal advocates.


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