Notes From the West
Your support for Friends of Animals is changing the lives of animals where the need is most desperate of all. Let me tell you about it.
Since 2004, Friends of Animals has enabled the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation to maintain its high volume spay/ neuter program, and earlier this year sent the show on the road to a new location, the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, helping another community establish a project to get ahead of the births of puppies. In May alone, 330 animals were spayed or neutered, vaccinated and treated for parasites. Hundreds of pieces of animal-welfare literature, treats and pet food were handed out as well. Two classrooms of schoolchildren visited the clinic, and high school science students were able to volunteer for extra credit.
It was 2002 when the Rosebud Sioux tribal health officials resolved to seek humane solutions to the problem of overwhelming numbers of puppies born each year on the reservation – an area that lacked basic resources to care for them. Hungry and homeless dogs had formed packs, even cannibalizing other dogs to survive and sometimes freezing to death in the winters. So the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Health Administration decided to use a high-volume spay and neuter project to address the matter, and in 2003 invited a team of humane organizations to create the project. Thus began a major turnaround in the situation for animals on that reservation. From 2003 through now, 3,556 pet sterilizations have taken place on the reservation. In 2004, Friends of Animals funded the project in full and in 2005 expanded it to include more frequent clinics, starting services earlier in the year in order to prevent early spring births. The second annual clinic occurs around 12 weeks later and a final clinic is held in early autumn. The timing maximizes the effectiveness of the services. Indeed, by 2005, letters from local officials revealed that a dramatic decrease in strays was obvious.
A great deal gets done at these clinics. In April, 243 animals were sterilized and treated for parasites during four days. According to Sid Kills In Water, director of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Community Health Representative program, people call his office months before the spring clinic to make sure not to miss it.
Kills In Water has noted that subtle changes have occurred, and believes that the reduction in the number of stray and vulnerable animals accounts for an estimated decrease of 75% in cruelty complaints to his office, which is the official base for animal control. Kills In Water said the project has enabled people to take the initiative with pet care: “When there are no options people become hopeless about an issue. When they are able to take action, they generally do and both the animals and the communities benefit.”
And Jackie Heinert of Rosebud, who now works to place animals from the reservation for adoption, observed, “The number of animals wandering the streets, actually starving, and infested with mange, has decreased. It used to be an everyday thing. It’s a rarity now.”
Heinert added, “The problems were too big to solve without this help... I hope we never slip back.”
The clinics funded by FoA use only qualified veterinarians and experienced veterinary assistants, and rely on local volunteers for check-in, check-out, cleaning, and moving animals to and from the recovery areas. In 2005, the Rosebud Tribe included a work-exchange project that offered offenders in the tribal jail a positive experience to earn time off their sentences.
In 2006, Friends of Animals received a query from a small animal shelter on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, asking if could be possible to duplicate the Rosebud program there. Funding from FoA empowered a team of veterinarians, veterinary assistants and volunteers to head for the Wind River Indian Reservation in Ft. Washakie to provide a first-time, high volume spay and neuter clinic during the first week of May. The start-up clinic was filled despite rain, snow and a power outage that resulted in generators being brought in to supply power to the clinic on the final day.
Russ Savage of the Shoshone Office of Environmental Health of the Indian Health Service arranged housing, food, and help with check-in procedures as Tribal Judge Ed Miller arranged a work exchange and Neva Miller volunteered with recovery care during the first two days.
Beadeaux Wesaw, manager of the animal shelter, noted that the inability to care for animals impacts families throughout the Wind River Reservation, and said, “We extend our warmest thanks to Friends of Animals.” Some shelters within the region accept adoptable pets from the reservation, but Wesaw said, “We can’t transport our way out of the problems.” Added Wesaw: “No matter how hard you work at saving animals, you cannot get ahead without spaying and neutering.”
Wesaw hopes that other tribes will follow suit. After the clinic, Wesaw proposed a more stringent animal control code for the reservation, explaining, “This is just the beginning.”