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November 17, 2011

Rescue Operation for Animals of the Reservation (ROAR) provides needed supplies to address animal overpopulation and public health concerns.  See more

BENEFITING: National Relief Charities

EVENT DATE: Oct 01, 2011


The dog and cat crisis is quite apparent on any rural, remote, and isolated American Indian reservation. One conservative estimate is that there are more than 6,000 stray and abandoned dogs roaming the Navajo reservation alone. These numbers do not include feral dogs or cats that could be in the tens of thousands, most of which roam unchecked killing livestock and biting people with alarming regularity.

Most American Indians see their relationship with dogs and cats as utilitarian, not as companions. This view of animals is also common in rural America. Historically, American Indians valued certain animals more than others based on the role the animal played in the survival of the people. For the Navajo, livestock have higher cultural value than dogs and cats. Livestock - cows, sheep and horses – eat and drink of the earth. Since the Navajo consume these animals and depend on them for their sustenance, the people are therefore linked directly to the earth through their relationship with them. Dogs and cats are not dependent in the same way so are lower in priority from a cultural perspective.

Because American Indian people on remote and isolated reservations do not have ready or easy access to veterinary care, they remain largely uninformed about the basics of animal care including the importance of providing healthy food, fresh water, adequate shelter and necessary veterinary care. Many people believe animals can roam and fend for themselves. This belief is largely to blame for the overpopulation problem among strays and abandoned animals and can largely be attributed to two possible reasons:
• Elder and middle-aged generations avoid spay/neuter services mostly due to culture. When they were younger, animals weren’t fixed and puppies were used on farms for herding or were given to friends or neighbors. Culturally, it wasn’t an option to consider.
• Younger American Indians realize the importance of spaying or neutering their pet, but even a low-cost procedure is viewed as too expensive when it is weighed against buying food or other basic needs for their families. Spay/neuter services can be as low as $35 at a low-cost clinic and between $100-$180 at most vets. Vaccinations, licensing and pet food also adds up. Economically, it isn’t an option.

There are few animal control officers on the reservation (the size of West Virginia). With limited funds and a large area to cover, their primary priority is to respond to dog attacks on livestock and dog bite incidents. Navajo animal control lacks adequate resources, supplies, space and staff to effectively provide needed, proactive services to control animal overpopulation.

A small number of animal welfare organizations do operate spay/neuter and animal wellness clinics on the reservation in an effort to control animal overpopulation. Many of these clinics are mobile and operate in select reservation communities for only a day or two each year. These clinics tend to be well attended and people bring their animals to be seen for a number of reasons.

Through our ROAR Program, NRC provides:
• Support to community dog and cat wellness clinics including low cost spay/neuter services through grants to make the services affordable for members of the community
• Supplies to existing mobile spay/neuter clinics and general incentives to help draw community members in to utilize the service
• Food, tick medication, towels, cleaning supplies and other needed items are delivered to support animal rescue workers in their efforts to foster, rehabilitate and adopt-out stray and abandoned reservation dogs and cats
• Limited cash grants to program partner agencies to transport rescued and rehabilitated reservation animals to urban no-kill shelters for adoption
• Support for outreach and education efforts to help community members learn about basic animal care and information regarding tribal animal control policies and resources. This includes the development and distribution of printed materials, treats and toys as well as resource sharing.

NRC is deeply concerned about both overpopulation and public health as are other animal welfare organizations. We have been working with authorities on American Indian reservations for over 3 years to help provide education, outreach, and vital veterinary services to low-income residents.

We work with Native authorities to help them make the most of their overstretched resources by encouraging consistent, culturally relevant messaging and the enforcement of responsible ownership laws. We provide vital services and product to help reservation animal welfare organizations address the problems at hand.

NRC is a Native–serving organization that has many differences from others who provide similar services:
• We work only on rural, remote and isolated reservations and feel the need is greatest in these communities.
• We have an established network of over 1,100 program partner agencies who work in reservation communities, an established inventory and logistics system, and a fleet of trucks to deliver goods to reservations 52 weeks a year. Currently, we provide animal welfare services to six organizations on the Navajo reservation in Arizona:
o Desert View Clinic – Tuba City
o Blackhat Humane Society – St. Johns
o Navajo Veterinary & Livestock Program – Window Rock, Flagstaff, Cave Creek
o Humane Society of the White Mountains - Lakeside
o Keyenta Animal Care Center - Keyenta
o Ak-Chin Animal Control - Maricopa
• We respect the familiarity of our partner agencies with their first-hand knowledge of the people and concerns in their communities. We strive to understand their initiatives and to enhance their outcomes.
• Many charities simply deliver goods to a location and leave. When charities do not work repeatedly in the same communities, they may not realize the adverse impact this can have. This form of service is irresponsible and may create more harm than good. What we provide is based on what our partner agencies request. This encourages trust and continued participation.
• We are not simply a material aid organization. Our overall purpose is to help American Indians build strong, self-sufficient communities. Partner agencies report that the skills gained from working with NRC carry over to their jobs or to other reservation projects. The same skills carry over to working with outside groups and resources. Entire reservation communities and members can benefit by working toward a shared goal.

We not only work with six Navajo animal welfare organizations, we also work with tribal and community organizations through our participation in a leadership committee that includes:
• International Fund for Animal Welfare
• Navajo Nation Veterinary and Livestock Program
• Navajo Nation Animal Control
• Navajo Housing Authority
• Indian Health Services

The mission of the committee is “to guide individuals toward healthy communities where animals and people can coexist in a healthy environment. It encourages dog and cat owners to provide adequate guardianship to their animals and in return to gain a life-long partnership, protection and support, according to nature’s way.” We have a number of responsibilities for developing and reviewing project plans with this group as well as financially supporting the effort.
We also have trusted relationships with individual members of the community. Relationships with pet and livestock owners are just as vital to our work on the Navajo reservation.

In 2011, we served 9 program partner agencies on 5 reservations: Navajo in AZ, Fallon in NV, Rosebud in SD, Flathead and Northern Cheyenne in MT.

NRC made 31 shipments to 9 program partner agencies:
• 21,561 lbs-Adult Dog Food
• 6,284 lbs-Puppy Food
• 2,196 lbs-Cat Food
• 1,285 lbs-Kitten Food
• 4,501 lbs-Dog Treats
• 350 lbs-Cat litter
• 3,076-Dog Toys
• 1,118-Blankets
• 941-Dog & Puppy Collars
• 792-Dog Bowls
• 750-Mats
• 670-Dog Leashes
• 637-Signs
• 149-Flea & Tick collars


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