SANDOVAL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – A decision to ban residents from feeding wild horses in Placitas has some people cheering and others devastated. During a heated meeting Wednesday night, Sandoval County Commissioners voted on two measures setting new rules for who can feed the horses.

Dozens of residents showed up Wednesday night in opposition to the proposal but officials maintained something needed to be done to ensure public safety. “Public safety is a priority for Sandoval County, public feeding of horses creates an unsafe situation for the general public. The situation requires a long-term solution,” said John Garcia, Deputy Count Manager, Sandoval County.

Some residents and county officials said feeding the horses attracts them to populated areas which pose dangers to both humans and horses, especially on the roads. Commissioners voted on two measures, one enacting the ban, and another allowing for non-profit organizations to get permits to feed the horses in coordination with the county.

Residents who have been fighting the ban said there are other ways to address public safety like better speed enforcement, cattle guards, and wildlife corridors. They argue the new restrictions are cruel and punish the horses, which they said are an important part of Placitas culture and history. “What makes you think a permit will resolve the issues that are plainly present? Why do the commissioners in favor of this ordinance feel it’s okay to imprison people for doing humanitarian work on their own property,” said a meeting attendee.

Jay Block was the lone commissioner against the proposal. He stirred up controversy in the chambers Wednesday night when he showed a picture of a dead horse and called it “the future of Placitas.”

The ban goes into effect on September 1. Non-profits can start applying for permits right away. County officials stressed they will make sure the horses continue to be fed during the transition as organizations apply for permits.