By Sean Whaley, The Las Vegas Review Journal
Wild horse advocates fear that if the auction is allowed to go forward, some of the animals will end up in slaughterhouses.
"The Department of Agriculture is doing what it's been required to do," Sandoval said. "They rounded them up for public safety purposes. This has been a long-scheduled auction and there is no reason to reschedule it."
The auction is set for today in Fallon.
About 40 sign-carrying wild horse advocates marched Friday in front of the Legislative Building in a move to induce Sandoval to block the auction. The protesters stopped at the governor's office to deliver 2,000 signatures of people who want to end the auction.
Bonnie Matton, president of the Wild Horse Preservation League, said Friday the activists are willing to take the horses, feed them and find homes for them if Sandoval can induce the state Department of Agriculture to call off the auction and come up with a plan for the advocates to care for these horses.
She expressed disappointment at Sandoval's decision.
"I'm appalled but I'm not surprised," Matton said. "I'm very disappointed in our governor. There is no reason the (Nevada Department of Agriculture) should do this."
In a late development, Jim Barbee, director of the Agriculture Department, said his agency had a "very positive meeting" Tuesday with wild horse advocates about what to do with future horses trapped for public safety reasons.
While nothing was finalized, the agency is looking at options to deliver the horses to the advocacy groups rather than to auction, he said. The auction will go forward, Barbee said.
Wild horse preservation groups from around the country have been collecting money to buy the horses and provide sanctuaries, and efforts will be made to buy the animals at the auction at Nevada Livestock Marketing, Matton said.
The animals can be purchased for less than $100 but she said "shills" can sometimes drive the price up much higher.
Matton said she believes another gather of as many as 60 stray horses will soon occur soon in northeastern Carson City, setting up the need for another auction next month.
"This is completely unnecessary and is costing taxpayers money," Matton said. "They have never fully managed the herds."
Unlike wild horses on federally managed lands, the horses are not protected by federal law. They are among the 2,500 horses found on private and state lands near Virginia City.
Dozens are killed each year in accidents with motor vehicles.
Under state law, they are referred to as "estray horses" that are owned by the state. There is no law preventing them from being sold for slaughter.
Deniz Bolbol, spokeswoman for the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said Sandoval has received a huge response from the public in opposition to the practice of sending the stray horses to slaughter.
"This is an opportunity for the governor to reform the program and devise a humane management plan that will benefit the taxpayers of Nevada and wild horses," she said.