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Wild horse advocates plan to meet Sunday and Monday in Carson City to discuss a new federal law they fear would allow the animals to be bought or sold for slaughter.

This conference is critical. Its a matter of life and death for these horses, said Shirley Allen, president of Least Resistance Training Concepts, a nonprofit organization in Dayton that offers horse training, adoptions and rescues.

The conference, to be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Casino Fandango, is a response to a provision in a $388 billion spending bill that President Bush signed into law recently.

The provision allows wild horses be sold, potentially for use as meat in foreign markets, if they are more than 10 years old or, if younger, after they have been offered unsuccessfully for adoption three times.

The way that (provision) was snuck in says something about the machinery of government back there. It didnt have a chance to come to the public so there was no time for the democratic process, Allen said.

U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., who sponsored the amendment to the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, said he believed most horses would wind up being adopted, not slaughtered. But his intent was to spur the Bureau of Land Management to get serious about its adoption program.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., didnt vote for the spending bill for a number of reasons, but has said he agrees with the revised law as a temporary measure until herds can be brought under control.

The senator reluctantly accepts this. But he doesnt like the idea of any horses going to slaughterhouses, said Ensign spokesman Jack Finn.

Ensign has sponsored a measure outlawing horse slaughter for human consumption. The bill didnt get out of committee this year, but Finn said its being brought back for further debate.

This weekends wild horse conference is expected to tackle a variety of wild horse issues but will focus specifically on the new spending bills provision.

Wild horse advocates say it would destroy the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

A multi-faceted debate on the wild horse issue has been needed for many years, said Pat Fazio, statewide coordinator for the Wyoming Animal Network and director of the Wild Horse and Burro Research Center and member of the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros.

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Bill is also about to be debated by Congress early in 2005. If this bill passes, the Burns rider would automatically be negated, Fazio said.

Thousands of the wild animals, mostly horses, have been sold for meat throughout the years mainly for Europeans. But since 1997, the illegal trade has been reduced by making adopters sign an affidavit that they dont plan to sell an adopted animal for slaughter.

Nevada leads the nation in wild horses. Last summer, officials estimated there were 19,000 horses on public land down from a high of 25,000 in 2000. The states goal is to get the numbers down to 14,500 by the end of 2005. Nationally, the objective is to reduce the number to 26,000.

The Carson City conference is being sponsored by the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros.

A wide range of wild horse organizations and leaders plan to attend the conference, but anyone is welcome, Fazio said.

It is our intent that this conference be a positive activity that will result in the dissemination of correct information, pooling of good ideas and development of good strategies, said Karen Sussman, president of the society.

please dont let this happen to our nations beauties!

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