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APHIS Helps Fight Pet Overpopulation on Tribal Lands

Years passed, but no one was able to get near the stray dog roaming the 90 acres of the Ely Shoshone Tribal District in Nevada. Tribal members had tried many times to corral her, to no avail.

Then, in 2011, the stray became pregnant, giving birth to a litter under a walkway at the tribe’s clinic. Occasionally, the puppies were heard crying, but a few weeks later their cries grew less noticeable. When employees became concerned, they resorted to tearing up the walkway. Only one of three puppies was still alive, but it soon died after being taken to a veterinarian for care.

Many communities in the United States, including Native American tribes like the Ely Shoshone, face similar problems when dogs and cats are not spayed or neutered. Frequently, when humans are unable to take care of their unsprayed or unneutered animals, they abandon them — bringing problems ranging from cats forming feral colonies to abandoned dogs becoming wild packs. Worse, a significant public health threat looms from potential dog bites and animals carrying diseases that can be transmitted to humans, primarily through ticks.

Enter USDA and its commitment to assisting rural communities. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has awarded grants to the Ely Shoshone and several other Native American tribes to “enhance animal well-being” through spay/neuter clinics and an education outreach initiative.

In June, a clinic was born on Ely Shoshone land so that the unwanted and uncared-for wouldn’t be any longer — but not before the stray dog had another litter of puppies. This time, however, tribal members were successful in capturing her. They even found her a new home.

Perline Thompson, of Duckwater, Nev., stepped forward. She named the dog Bella and, when contacted about having her new pet spayed, she jumped at the opportunity.

“Bella is living in a happy home where she is now queen of the castle,” Thompson said.

Tribal coordinator Sandra Barela said having her 7-month-old male puppy neutered for a low fee helped to stop him from marking his territory and “being so hyper.” Barela added, “Thank you for the opportunity to receive funding for the spay and neutering clinic.”

Since 2005, other tribes have benefitted from the APHIS spay-neuter grants, including Alaska Native Rural, Inc.; the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina); Passamaquoddy Tribe (Maine); Poarch Creek Indians (Alabama), and the Navajo Nation (Arizona). For more information about the APHIS spay/neuter initiative on tribal lands, contact Dr. Terry Clark, National Tribal Liaison, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, terry.w.clark@aphis.usda.gov

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