Sandoval Signpost


An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Dave Harper

If you lose or find an animal in Placitas area, call the Animal Hotline at 867-6135. The Hotline is a nonprofit service run by Dave and January Harper to help reunite lost and found pets. Placing a Lost or Found in the Animal Hotline is a free service courtesy of the Signpost—we can sometimes even include a photo. Call Dave and January at 867-6135 or 263-2266 and leave a detailed message, or email the Animal Hotline at: (but call, too).



A big “Thank You!” goes out to Erica who helped “Maggie,” the lost Sheltie, get back to her home this month! Maggie is a sweet Sheltie mix who is an escape artist. She is a recent rescue dog who is new to Placitas and squeezed out of a narrow spot in her back yard fence in the northwest part of Placitas (San Francisco Hills) a couple weeks ago. Maggie's owner Nan was so very worried, but hoping to be lucky. (I've known of pets to be gone for months and still be found miles away.) Nan got hold of everyone she could to put the word out and put “Lost Dog” posters up all around Placitas. Maggie was gone for about 5 days and traveled many miles to be found near the Post Office in the Village of Placitas!  The Hotline and Maggie and Nan say Thank you, Erica!


CAT: Greyish Black cat lost from Ranchos de Placitas in mid-April.  Neutered male with white bow tie. Has tiger stripe on the inside of his leg. He is about 3 years old and was lost from Arroyo Venada. #3745


CAT: Black-and-white cat with golden colored eyes found off canon del Agua in ranchos de Placitas on May 15th. Has a little white on the face and chest is mostly white. Thin cat who is pretty friendly. #3752

found cat

CAT: Skinny, Black and white cat found about 3 miles north of the the Village of Placitas (off camino de las Huertas) on May 17th. Friendly cat with white tufts on back and tail. #3753


Animal News

LaloLalo’s pet prints:


Gee, “Ginger” . . . Anything I can do to make you more comfy? Cold beverage? Milkbone?
Photo credit: —Barbara Lareau Leipold


 “‘Zorra del Ponderosa G.G.’ has her eyes on you, graduates!”
Photo credit: —Rebecca G. “Gert” Perry-Piper

Horse problems

—Ty Belknap

“You got a real mess out there.” That was New Mexico Livestock Board Deputy Director Bobby Pierce’s appraisal of the horse situation in Placitas. With no one in charge and no plan to control population, the situation is bound to get worse. Two letters appears in the May Signpost that decried the slaughter of unwanted horses, but offered no suggestions to solve the problems that lead to this slaughter.

Pierce told the Signpost, that individual property owners can take the situation into their own hands by corralling “feral stray horses” and calling the Livestock Board (LB). The LB will check for brands and try to determine if the horses have an owner. Then they advertise the strays for five days while they probably stay where they are since the LB has no holding pens. Meanwhile the property owner would have to guard the corral so wild horse advocates don’t set them free. There would probably be restraining orders to deal with as well as the wrath of neighbors while the LB tries to find space in the already overbooked horse sanctuaries.

Pierce said that it is tough to find a buyer, and the LB has no funding for euthanasia. Ultimately, the horses are shipped off to Mexico or maybe Roswell for slaughter.

Ten years ago this month a Placitas resident was harshly criticized for rounding up five horses and calling the LB. A stallion broke his neck when being loaded up to be sent to auction.

It’s not a pretty picture. The horses face a long, hot, dry summer. There have been at least two car vs. horse accidents in the past year causing dead horses and a seriously damaged cars. Last fall the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) rounded up eight unwanted horses deemed “livestock” near Camino de las Huertas and moved them to a wild horse sanctuary.

Although the WHOA is still waiting on a Federal Court decision is their effort to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from rounding up horses they consider “wild” on BLM lands near Placitas, WHOA favors contraception.

Patience O’Dowd wrote the Signpost:

“WHOA is certified to administer native PZP, porcine zona pelucida, an immunocontraceptive by dart. WHOA received this certification at the Zoo Montana Science Center from Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick years ago. WHOA has sent formal proposals to the proper authorities in Sandoval County. WHOA has also previously sent proposals to the New Mexico Livestock Board, though these horses are not legally livestock. In each and every case, we have offered our services without charge. WHOA cannot legally administer PZP without approval from the proper authorities and therefore, has not.”

PZP is a reversible, non-hormonal contraceptive with a 24-year history of success, all over the country on urban deer and 85 species of zoo animals, including wild bison, and even on fourteen different populations of African elephants in the Republic of South Africa. With a booming free-range horse population in many places in the West, one might wonder why we don’t use it here.

To make sure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands, the BLM must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control the size of herds, which have virtually no predators and can double in population every four years.  The current free-roaming population of BLM-managed wild horses and burros is 38,500, which exceeds by nearly 12,000 the number determined by the BLM to be the appropriate management level.  Off the range, there are more than 47,000 wild horses and burros cared for in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures. All these animals, whether on or off the range, are protected by the BLM under the 1971 law.

The report on the next page of this Signpost, by the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, further describes the gravity of the problem. It’s a real mess.

Equine welfare: What is humane? Perspective.

—New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association & New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau

The issue of “humane” care and treatment of horses has become extremely volatile in New Mexico and across the nation in recent weeks. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t nearly so recent. The issue has been in the national spotlight long enough that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has had time to do an in-depth study, identifying the problems and pointing out challenges for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as horse owners and lovers.

What are the options and the alternatives for unwanted and feral horses? Where does the funding come from?

The focus should be on the quality of life for horses and the assurance for a humane end of life. Reality is that regardless of their use and the emotions tied to them, horses, like all animals, have limited lifetimes.

New Mexico currently has only nine certified horse rescue operations. There may be others taking in unwanted horses, but only these nine are certified by the New Mexico Livestock Board who is charged with the responsibility of humane oversight of horses and other livestock in the state (

These rescue operations are not government funded and operate largely on donations. Not only are these facilities not well distributed around the state, but capacity is limited. The ideal capacity for the entire group of certified rescues is 257 head—those facilities are currently holding 266 horses.

Immediately prior to a sale, Southwest Livestock Auction houses up to three hundred head of horses. Prior to the current investigation, Southwest routinely held four sales per month.

The cost of maintaining a horse varies with the age, size, and condition of animal, but care and feeding just one emaciated horse, which is the condition most horses are in when rescued, can easily run from $800 to $1,000 per month, according to one rescue owner. Hay alone, which must be supplemented with grain, vitamins, and minerals as well as routine health care, presently runs at $300 per month and up. Maintaining a healthy horse costs a minimum of $150 per month.

Sadly, rescues are finding that when they do rehabilitate a horse, there are no permanent homes available for them. Additionally horses that cannot be rehabilitated then must be disposed of by the rescue.

New Mexico, including tribal lands, is home to literally tens of thousands of feral or unwanted horses. Because of the drought and current economic conditions the problem is growing literally by the moment. Families who were once able to maintain horses for enjoyment are now having to choose between caring for their families or their animals. A Coggins Test, which is required to transport a horse costs $35 per head. Farrier or horse-shoeing expenses can run from $40 to $120 per month per head for regularly maintained horses, plus mileage. Horses that have been neglected can be exponentially higher.

According to a 2005 survey by the New Mexico Horse Council, nearly 100,000 New Mexicans are involved in the equine industry. Within that group, 72 percent of New Mexico horse owners have an annual household income of $75,000 or less. The report also states that 76 percent of these owners are thirty to sixty years of age with only thirteen percent under the age of thirty.

When horses can no longer be cared for, the options for disposition are limited and cost prohibitive. While landfills have the option of accepting animal carcasses, few choose to and they come with strict requirements including an appointment to bring the carcass, a veterinary certificate indicating that the animal did not succumb to an infectious disease, and payment of special charges for heavy equipment and operators. These costs can easily add up to $300 per horse carcass. That is added to the cost of euthanasia, which if done by a licensed veterinarian costs $150 and up. Then the animal must be transported from its location to the landfill, which can cost from $180 to $220.

On-sight burial requires heavy equipment and a permit the Public Regulatory Commission, with unknown impacts to water quality.

Selling unwanted or feral horses presents an entirely different set of problems. According to the GAO report, the price of horses has dropped dramatically since 2007 because there is little salvage value due to limited options for marketing. Many auction markets will not even accept horses and most of those who do will accept only those that are in healthy condition. The markets that do accept horses in lesser condition find that they soon are the recipients of numerous horses that are left, often in the dead of night which places a greater burden on limited Livestock Board resources.

Horses that go through auction markets that are not purchased as working or pleasure horses are destined for slaughter plants in Mexico. Those animals are loaded onto trailers averaging thirty head or more and trucked to the Mexico border. There they are unloaded and put on another truck to cross the international border. They are unloaded and put on yet another truck to travel up to seventeen hours into the interior of Mexico for slaughter. Once the animals cross into Mexico, they are not subject to any US oversight and many of these plants are not subject to inspections.

Mexico will not accept intact studs (males) or pregnant mares. Feral or unwanted studs must be castrated, which if done by a veterinarian, can cost $300 per head. If not done by a veterinarian, there are sanitary and recovery time issues. Mares are often allowed to foal, with the offspring left behind when shipped.

Numerous unwanted horses are merely hauled to an open space—including private, federal, tribal, or state lands. There they are either turned loose to fend for themselves or perhaps shot on-sight. These horses create grave concern for livestock owners and managers due to the potential for disease transmission. Individual reports are that horses are routinely abandoned on tribal lands near Albuquerque leaving the tribes to deal with disposal.

There are numerous other facets to the current unwanted or feral horse problem that will require more in-depth consideration. Under the current drought with little water and forage available horses are doing an incredible amount of resource damage. Horse hooves have an entirely different impact on the ground the travel than cloven hoofed animals, compacting the soil rather than breaking it. Horses are also in competition with other domestic livestock and wildlife for scarce resources.
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