IFAW US: A Dog “PAW-TY” in Navajo Nation

This post comes in from the Project Manager of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Dog and Cat Rescue Project in Navajo Nation, Gail A’Brunzo. The Navajo Nation is a sovereign Native American reservation in the south-western United States where IFAW has been working with Navajo authorities for over 12 years to help control pet overpopulation and provide vital veterinary services to low-income residents.

Shown here is a little boy doing a good job of holding on to his dog for a Frontline application. Fleas and ticks are a real disease problem on the Navajo Nation; Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is carried by ticks and there was even a local case of Bubonic Plague last year. c. IFAW Anybody who knows anything about the “Rez” dogs on the Navajo Nation knows that these dogs are woefully disadvantaged. Distemper and parvovirus run rampant through the Nation because owners don’t have money or access to the two veterinarians serving the Nation, which is about the size of West Virginia. Dogs are also allowed to run at large, forming packs that attack livestock or bite people who are out for a walk. This often leads to “dog roundups” wherein dogs are regularly euthanized. They’re also often without shelter when the desert sun beats down or the harsh winter snowstorms hit in the winter. It’s hard to imagine that such a life exists for dogs that live in the United States and that is why the educational activities we had planned were so vital.

IFAW’s Companion Animal Program has been working with the Navajo Nation Veterinary and Livestock Program for about 12 years now and we wanted to find a fun way to continue spreading the word about important practices such as pet vaccinations, keepings pets from roaming and proper pet identification. We determined that would be dog “paw-ties” on the reservation! Two communities were chosen, Fort Defiance and Chinle, and the idea was to celebrate the important role that dogs play in the communities and impress upon dog owners the importance of responsible guardianship.

The free collar and ID tag table was a real hit; there was quite a backup while the ID machine worked overtime. One little “Zen” kitten decided to take a break on the ID tag table until her tag was done, ignoring all the activity and the noise of the ID machine. c. IFAW We had a terrific turnout – over 200 people - at both locations! At first the people were confused, “You’re having a party for the dogs?” But they quickly got into the spirit of things. There were ten booths at both locations that handed out educational materials, free collars, leashes and ID tags, free Frontline flea and tick preventative solution, free rabies shots, half-price dog licenses and lots of other dog-related goodies. There were raffles and free food and even the fire truck was there to give tours to the kids.

In the end, we were able to hand out over 400 collars and IDs and apply Frontline to 23 dogs which is only the beginning!

These parties were a good kick-off for an intense education outreach effort that will be ongoing, particularly in these two areas of the reservation. Awareness and education is a big step for a better life for the pets on the Navajo Nation.

For more information please visit www.ifaw.org

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