RENO, Nev. (AP) - Some 150 mustangs that had been set to be auctioned off for possible slaughter after their removal from the range in Nevada have been granted a reprieve.
With financial backing from Florida horse lover Victoria McCullough, activists acquired the animals Friday for $29,800, or $200 a head, from the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Tribe in northern Nevada.
McCullough, who seeks a ban on the slaughter of horses for consumption and export to other countries, rescues the animals through her Wellington, Fla.-based Triumph Project. She also is chairwoman of the board of Chesapeake Petroleum, a leading oil distribution company in the Washington, D.C. area.
Plans call for the horses to be split up among rescue groups and to end up at homes in Nevada and California, said Ginger Kathrens, founder and executive director of Colorado-based horse advocacy group The Cloud Foundation.
The purchase was a joint effort by various horse defenders, including Madeleine Pickens of Saving America's Mustangs. At McCullough's request, Florida state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo negotiated with the tribe.
"What an incredible, collaborative effort by all involved," Kathrens said. "Acting as a team and with Victoria's tremendous support, we are able to ensure a future for mustangs that were a heartbeat away from a long journey to slaughter."
A federal judge cleared the way Wednesday for the tribe to sell the 150 mustangs over the objection of activists who claimed the unbranded animals are federally protected wild horses that should not be auctioned off for possible slaughter in Mexico or Canada.
They were among 467 horses the tribe gathered on and around their reservation near the Oregon line.
U.S. District Judge Miranda Du granted an emergency order blocking the sale of the unbranded horses on the eve of an Aug. 17 auction in Nevada where the other horses were sold. But the judge lifted the order last week, clearing the way for the sale of the remainder of the animals.
At the auction, 150 horses were sold to residents and rescue groups and some 167 mustangs were sold to those who plan to take them to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico, according to Paula Todd King of The Cloud Foundation.
"We would have loved to have purchased all of them, but we couldn't do it," she said.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign sought to block sale of the animals based on its position that the mustangs originated on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and therefore were protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)