A disaster-relief approach

Rez Dogs.

Such a complicated subject. More so than you could possibly imagine…especially when we look at them through the lens of our off-reservation lives.

Recently under a post on our Facebook page, we ended up having a conversation where I shared some things that I decided should be a post in and of itself.

If you have ever wondered if we are seeing a visible difference on Pine Ridge and Rosebud… If you have ever wondered why it’s not under control yet…If you really really want to allow me to take a few minutes of your life to have a teaching moment regarding these dogs…Please consider reading on.

Sure. I can drive great distances on each reservation now and not see dogs by the side of the road in areas where that would never have happened five years ago. Community members tell us all the time that they see a difference. But there are also areas where trouble still persists where the numbers still don’t feel good to the people in those communities or neighborhoods.

This is a problem that’s been over 100 years in the making and will take some time to get over the hump, although we certainly have begun to turn the tide. When 5000 dogs have been pulled from the geographically defined areas of Pine Ridge and Rosebud in the last two years – that’s 5000 animals not in the reproductive cycle – that can’t help but make a noticeable difference…but I think the thing to remember here when wondering if we can visibly see a difference…is the size of the landmass we are talking about.

Pine Ridge is the size of the state of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and Rosebud about half that size. So the dogs are not in one town or one small area. So we know we’re making a difference when the people who live here day in and day out tell us that we are. And the difference – the visible difference – isn’t just in numbers of dogs, it is also in offering encouragement and support to the animal lovers who have never had that before…on this level…in the history of the reservation. The visible difference is in the numbers of community members involved in saving dogs or reporting dogs that need to be saved.

The strays are still out there over this large area of land; probably a couple thousand easy. But with consistency and an average of eight dogs a day rescued, we will remove another 2500 this year. And the difference on so many levels will continue to be more and more apparent.

And you know what I find very interesting is how the off-reservation world is surprised that there are still dogs that need to be rescued, when in their own communities they build shelters to last for 80 years because even there there will always be dogs in need of rescue.

We don’t have a handle on it in the United States with all of our wealth and resources. Why do we think it will be under control on Native American reservations anytime soon?

I think part of it is that people don’t realize how huge of an area were talking about but they expect things from this community… the dog problem getting under control when in their own states tens of thousands upon thousands are euthanized every year. And it is because they have the facilities to euthanize. It can be a hidden thing. Where on the reservations we have no such thing so our population and its overwhelming numbers are out in plain sight.

In the Stateside world we take care of it behind closed doors. That is why you have less dogs there that need rescuing.

And this is my response to the spay and neuter aspect. To those who message us and tell us that this is the only answer: It has to be a two-pronged attack at this point.

There are thousands of unowned stray dogs on the reservation. Who is going to take them to a spay and neuter clinic? Last year we removed almost 2500 dogs. That’s 2500 dogs that are no longer in the reproduction cycle on these two reservations. That is perhaps five years worth of the numbers that can be done at the few clinics that we are grateful that they come through, but man we need to think outside that box.

We got 2500 dog spayed and neutered last year…just in other states. Because when faced with the overpopulation that has become a disaster for the dogs and sometimes even for the people… Responding like a disaster relief organization and simply getting dogs out is important. Reducing the reproductive population is a big part of the solution. Getting paws off the ground, to somewhere warm, with forever families, is a big part of the solution.

Every rescue organization and every person must play his or her part, and the more ways we tackle this problem together, the better.

This is what we do. And on we go.