In January, 2004, several organizations that provide animal welfare services on the Navajo Nation met in Flagstaff to review how services were delivered in 2003 and to look ahead and create a plan for 2004. At the meeting, a spirit of collaboration prompted the groups to join together and focus their combined efforts on one community for a week's time with a blitz of animal welfare services, under the banner of animal, family, and community health.
As a result of this plan, Shiprock, NM, the largest population center on the Navajo Nation (approx. 8,000) was chosen for services in the first week of May, 2004. All services are coordinated through the Navajo Nation Veterinary & Livestock Program, under the direction of Glenda Davis, Program Manager.
On Monday and Tuesday (May 3 and 4), Diane Jarvis, Humane Education Director of Plateauland Mobile Veterinary Clinic from Flagstaff, Claudia Roll, Southwest Program Manager for SNAP from Albuquerque, and Tova Salabye, Community Outreach Coordinator for SNAP and Navajo Nation Puppy Program Coordinator from the Window Rock office of the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program, visited all Shiprock Elementary schools, and one middle school for humane education presentations. They made presentations to approximately 1500 students over the course of two days. The information ranged from a pledge of kindness to help the animals, to information about parasites, and how to prevent unwanted puppies and kittens. In combination with the humane education presentations, three different groups brought their mobile spay/neuter units to Shiprock to provide free spay/neuter services and inexpensive vaccinations for dogs and cats.
On Monday, SNAP parked their mobile unit in front of the Shiprock Vet Clinic. Dr. Fleming, from the Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program, worked with SNAP to provide spay/neuter and vaccinations for dogs and cats. Because each truck can handle about 20 - 25 animals per day, and the surgeries were available on a first come, first served basis, people began lining up for the free spay/neuters at 5 o' clock in the morning. Check in at the truck began at 7:30 a.m. SNAP also participated in a program to provide chemical castration for male dogs between 3 - 10 months of age. This means that instead of anesthesia and surgery, these male dogs can be neutered with special shots. Recovery time is far less and it's less stressful for the dog.
On Tuesday, which was also Navajo voting day, Arizona Humane Society brought their mobile unit to the Chapter House parking lot, about ¼ mile down the road from the vet clinic. Their vet is Dr. Derek Osterheld. Those who hadn't seen the notices posted in the Navajo Times, the Farmington Daily Times, or heard the radio spots, saw the trucks when they came to vote at the Chapter House. The AZ Humane truck also had long lines early in the morning, as people waited to get their animals on the truck.
Sherry Woodard, an animal behaviorist from Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, UT, pulled up a colorful van next to the AZ Humane Society truck, and began dispensing free collars for dogs and cats (donated from Best Friends, and also from PETsMART). She also brought a portable tag machine and had a line of people all day waiting for their free tags to be etched with their contact information. Collars and tags assure that if an animal gets loose, those who find it will know it is owned and where it belongs.
On Wednesday, Plateauland brought their truck to the Chapter House parking lot. Dr. Carol Holgate, previously of the Window Rock office of the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program, is Plateauland's vet, and also has her own practice in Tuba City.
Plateauland, the only group that schedules surgeries ahead of time, was fully scheduled before they even arrived in Shiprock. With some extra crew on board they also planned to supply as many vaccinations as possible. All three of the trucks agreed ahead of time to provide free spay/neuters and had a special package of inexpensive vaccinations for dogs and cats. The special package included deworming, rabies, and a 5-in-1 (canine distemper, parvo, and 3 other things) for dogs, and an equivalent package for cats, all together for $15 per animal.
There was a tremendous response by the Shiprock community. With all the providers in place, 265 spay/neuters were delivered over the week. More than 900 vaccinations were given, and deworming was also given to several hundred animals. More than 500 collars were given away, and more than 270 tags.
Preventing unwanted puppies and kittens from being born is crucial for the health of the community. Stray and abandoned animals runs in packs, create health problems, and an increase in dog bites, especially for children and the elderly, and they often prey on livestock. Vaccinations are crucial to combatting the high incidence of distemper and parvo. Also of benefit to the community is that spay/neuter lessens the risks of prostate problems and testicular cancer. Male pets wont fight and roam as much in quest of a mate. Spayed females have reduced risks of malignant mammary cancers and uterine problems. Female cats who are not spayed may go into heat as often as every few weeks; dogs twice a year. Spaying produces a cleaner pet (no bleeding on furniture and carpet during heats) and saves aggravation and work. Sterilized animals are calmer, more affectionate and less aggressive.
Other chapters who want services can contact the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program office in Window Rock at (928) 871-6619 to request services for their chapters.
Combined schedules for the spay/neuter providers can be found here.
A similar array of services is planned for Kayenta the week of July 12 - 16, 2004.