Sandoval County has announced the applications for permits to feed free-roaming horses in Placitas will be posted on the county’s website beginning July 1.

After more than a decade of heated debates, the Sandoval County Commission seemingly put an end to the issue of feeding horses in Placitas by voting in favor of two measures setting new rules for who can feed the horses at the May 24 meeting

An ordinance making it illegal for residents to feed the horses and a resolution that established a permitting process for third parties to feed the horses safely, with only nonprofit organizations eligible for the permit, each passed by a vote of 4-1.

“This permitting application is the first step in our efforts to assure safety of the public and the free-roaming horses in Sandoval County,” Sandoval County Deputy County Manager John Garcia said. “We encourage all those interested in feeding the horses to submit their applications to our director of Planning and Zoning.”

Completed applications will be reviewed by the county’s equine experts for eligibility before being forwarded to Planning and Zoning for consideration and approval. Information and instructions for the process are detailed in the online application. The Resolution to Establish a Permit Process for the Feeding of Free-Roaming Horses and its Ordinance are also posted on the webpage.

The commissioners voted 3-2 against the ordinance at the March 22 meeting. District 2 Commissioner Jay Block was the lone vote against the ordinance and the resolution at the May 24 meeting. Commission Chair Dave Heil and District 3 Commissioner Michael Meek each flipped their vote from the March 22 meeting.

The feeding of horses has been a longstanding issue for people in the community. Many things have been tried to control the horse population in Placitas, including the use of Porcine Zona Pellucida. PZP is a fertility-control vaccine given to female horses through an injection via remote darting. Another issue that has been raised has been the danger concerns for motorists and horses on NM 165 near mile marker 4, where horses have been hit by vehicles and fed by people in that area.

At an April 12 meeting, Garcia and Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Allen Mills presented a “motion to approve the publication of an ordinance to ban the general public from feeding certain wildlife within the Sandoval County area.” The revised ordinance established a permitting process for third parties to feed the horses safely.

“The bottom line, why are we doing this? It is for public safety,” Garcia said. “We as a government know that there’s a risk and have a responsibility to address the risk. There’s a concern for general safety in the community. The situation does require a solution both short and long term. Our only thing we’re doing in the short term today is an ordinance to stop the bleeding. But we do need to think of a long-term situation.”

The short-term solution is the ordinance and the resolution. The permits will be issued for one year at a time and could be renewed at least 90 days before its expiration. No permit shall be issued for an area adjacent to any public road.

Only nonprofit organizations that qualify for 501 (c)(3) status and have demonstrated experience and knowledge in the care of horse management and protection would be eligible.

The penalty for unlawful feeding of free-roaming horses would be up to 90 days imprisonment, a fine of up to $300 or both.

“We’re just trying to manage a situation where humans and horses are together, and it’s a circumstance that we have a responsibility to deal with it,” Garcia said. “It’s not the best situation, but we’re trying to make it at least a really good livable situation. So I’m hopeful, personally, that we can work together. And then we have a plan. And then in the end there will be horses here and people here.”

The ban goes into effect on Sept. 1, and nonprofits can soon start applying for permits online. County officials said they will make sure the horses continue to be fed during the transition as organizations apply for permits.

“What is in the best interest for the people and the horses is this solution that endangers neither people nor horses,”Garcia said. “Passing this resolution and ordinance again is not the end; it’s the beginning of the final process to deal with a safety problem that will only get worse as our community grows.”