Salem, Ore. – The Oregon Department of Agriculture appears to be violating Oregon law by circumventing rules related to application requirements for one-day horse sales– ultimately to the benefit of a newly formed Oregon horse sale business which the agency was trying to fast-track only mere days before a scheduled sale.
A yet-to-be-licensed sale is currently scheduled by the company to take place at the Oregon State Fairgrounds this weekend, May 13th, and many attendees and sellers appear unaware the company has yet to obtain a license as horses were being consigned and other preparations made.
The revelations came after a Facebook Page for the business began quickly circulating in late March with claims it would provide an alternative after the recent end of a monthly horse auction in Oregon that was put on by the Eugene Livestock Auction. While unrelated to the reasons for the end of their monthly horse auction (ELA) was recently under scrutiny for allegedly defrauding buyers with illegal debit and credit card surcharges.
Following the FB posts by PNW Horse Sales, an explosion of comments on social media both in support as well as comments critical of the sale appeared. Comments directly on the businesses page that were negative appeared to have been deleted.
Sources had alleged on social media that the business was not yet registered with the Oregon Secretary of State, despite having promptly announced they would hold a horse auction sale at the Linn County Expo Center on May 13th. NW Horse Report confirmed at the time that the business was not yet registered.
An April 6th post from owner Tommie Reevs stated, “I have been in the auction world for 10 years now so when the only horse sale in Oregon decided to close down, I knew something needed to be done.”
Reevs also appeared to focus on making clear distinctions between her company’s new sales and that of the Eugene Horse Auction in response to proponents who have long alleged major issues with the ELA auctions.
“With this sale you will get a wide variety of people to look at your horse and potentially buy it. I expect all buyers to be there and represent their horses. This is NOT a drop and dump your horse type situation. All sellers information will be posted and you can talk directly to the seller about the horse you are interested in.” said Reevs.
Proponents against the sale claim that many of the same alleged “nefarious horse traders” who were behind the Eugene Horse Auction would be involved. Two individuals who have also been the subject of past reporting by NW Horse Report that appeared tied and had been promoting PNW Horse Sale included Donald Nowlin of Outwest Livestock from Washington State, along with Geneva Boston of Salem– who went as far as lying to police claiming a woman horse had died despite it being shipped to auction in Montana.
According to recent statements by Nowlin, Boston appears to provide transportation for horses for his company in Washington State but did not appear to have any licensing with the USDOT or under the FMCSA to provide such services.
About a month before the scheduled sale, a spokesperson for the Linn County Board of Commissioners told NW Horse Report that the company did not have a contract and had only made an inquiry regarding the date is available.
Officials with ODA also confirmed last month that the company did not have the required license to conduct the “one-day” horse sale and that it was not licensed as a livestock auction yard in Oregon.
On April 18th the company suddenly announced on FB that the sale would instead take place at the State Fairgrounds in Salem. Around the start of May the Oregon State Expo Center’s calendar page then listed the sale.
In a follow-up inquiry earlier this week asking if the company had obtained a license, a spokesperson for ODA said, “ODA received an application for May 13, 2023, held at the Oregon State Fair & Expo in Salem. It was faxed in on 5/5/23 and accounting validated it on 5/9/23.”
It was unclear from that response if a license was issued or not, prompting follow-up asking if “validated” meant a license was issued. The official responded by saying, “The license is not issued until the inspection is complete. ODA is scheduled to do that inspection sometime between today and Friday.”
Despite the application still being well within the minimum 30-day requirement required by Oregon law, the response confirmed that the company was already advertising the sale about a month before even applying for the license, raising serious consumer protection questions as many equestrians who planned on attending reported being unaware the company had yet to obtain the license before even advertising the sale.
“That definitely sounds like an issue of the cart before the horses there, that’s really worrisome,” said one source who spoke only on the condition of anonymity as they had previously been a buyer and seller at the Eugene Horse Auction.
The discovery was shocking considering that rules under Oregon law state: “Application to hold a temporary horse sale shall be made to Department at least 30 days prior to the date the sale is to be held.”
Clear legal precedence has repeatedly found that the word “shall”, especially in the content of the law, means that it imposes a duty upon a party and is a mandatory word. This leaves little room for the ODA or businesses to circumvent this requirement according to a now-retired Oregon judge who spoke on the condition of anonymity with NW Horse Report late Thursday.
The Oregon Supreme Court also found in the 1957 case of Stanley v Mueller highlighted what it called the “ordinary effect” of the word, “In our opinion, the mandatory ‘shall’ in this statute should be given its ordinary effect by the courts.”
The disclosure by ODA officials now raises serious questions regarding the apparent violation of Oregon law, especially with the agency fast-tracking an application and providing a license not only to the new company but even the move of conducting an inspection of the site the same day animals are scheduled to arrive on Friday.
Officials with ODA then went silent earlier Thursday after being questioned by multiple reporters if the ongoing process and handling of the application for PNW Horse Sales was in compliance with Oregon law.
NW Horse Report has previously learned of allegations from proponents who believed officials at ODA were providing “favors” to circumvent various rules related to livestock auctions and horse sales for special interests behind the sales.
Those allegations could not be corroborated, but they did prompt NW Horse Report to begin a more detailed process of obtaining public records from the ODA in investigating the claims.
When NW Horse Report reached out to Reevs asking if she wanted to speak generally about the company’s sale and their plans, she promptly refused to provide any comment claiming NW Horse Report had already created enough issues.
“Okay, I want nothing to do with you, you have caused a lot of problems for me already, please do not call me again,” was all that Reevs said before hanging up.
Reevs did not say anything further to detail what “problems” she alleges were caused by NW Horse Report, but the response raised further questions on whether any ODA officials might have informed Reevs and PNW Horse Sale about inquiries made into the company’s licensing, or if Reevs may have been referring to earlier inquiries made with Linn County officials.
However, it is also known that Reevs’ acquaintances Boston and Nowlin have been widely critical of NW Horse Report’s past reporting.
After officials with ODA appear to have gone silent earlier Thursday from the ODA, NW Horse Report reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but has yet to hear back. A staffer for Oregon State Representative Ken Helm, who is the Chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, also stated that Governor Tina Kotek’s office would be responsible for oversight of the agency.
NW Horse Report also reached officials with the Oregon State Expo Center which is responsible for the administration of the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which is listed as public state property. An official only indicated they handle the rental facilitation for the fairgrounds only and would have nothing to do with any other licensing requirements.
When asked if they expect all vendors to comply with Oregon laws while conducting business on State property, the unnamed official declined to comment saying their CEO would have to respond but was out until Tuesday.
According to Oregon Parks & Recreation Division (OPRD) Associate Director Chris Havel, the Oregon State Expo Center previously operated until around 2015 under the control of OPRD. Havel explained a quasi-government corporation was formed to handle the affairs of the Oregon State Fairgrounds property at that time. Some of the property is also under the control of the Oregon Military Department.
No response or updates from ODA officials were received before the end of business on Thursday. It was unclear if ODA did conduct the inspection and issued the license to the company.
Additional questions regarding the business’s compliance with Oregon workers’ compensation insurance laws were also raised, as the auction operation was to involve the need for additional workers. According to state records, the company has not yet obtained workers’ compensation insurance as required under Oregon law.
The lack of workers’ compensation insurance coverage by equestrian businesses continues to be a major issue in Oregon– especially considering the risks for those working with and around horses.
Separate from the ongoing licensing questions and handling by ODA officials, the central feeling about the prospects of a new sale can likely be summed up in a statement made by Sandy McLarrin on Facebook:
“Here’s hoping this auction is more honest than Eugene was. Good luck in taking on this huge endeavor.”
Aside from the license application requirements, the concerns raised by several proponents that PNW Horse Sales event may be dead in the water if a license is not issued remains the biggest potential impact on consumers as well as buyers– as some are traveling and even shipping far distances– raising serious questions as to the businesses quick and hasty startup.
This is a developing story you can count on NW Horse Report to keep you updated on.