Kayenta Dogs Update

An Update from Susan R. Stoltz on the plight of the abandoned dogs at Kayenta in Navajo Nation. Susan Previously chronicled the Dogs at Kayenta for Life With Dogs back in January.

An Update from Susan R. Stoltz on the plight of the abandoned dogs at Kayenta in Navajo Nation. Susan Previously chronicled the Dogs at Kayenta for Life With Dogs back in January. To help fund the feeding of these dogs please go to the ChipIn fund here.


It’s been a hot summer, felt far and wide across the country.  The same goes for the abandoned dogs at Kayenta in the Navajo Nation.

For those of you just tuning in, the dogs in Kayenta have been a problem for years and years. The majority of the people living on the Reservation are without funds to care for their own children much less an animal population out of control.  There is the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation itself, which resents interference from any ‘outsiders’ whether the interference is for good or not.  There is a great lack of education about spay and neuter, and finally there resides a great apathy towards these animals.  Besides being left out in the weather, which can exceed 105 degrees and dip to well below freezing, these animals are starved to death, left without sufficient water or shelter, and are denied vet care in spite of a clinic set up to help the situation.

The laws of the Navajo Nation are very specific.  It is illegal to take an animal off the Reservation and you can be arrested and convicted of a crime for doing so.  It doesn’t matter that one has good intentions, and the best interest of the animals suffering in mind.  It is illegal.

The ‘laws of the jungle’ so-to-speak, in a pack of dogs is even more daunting.  They will attack in a feeding frenzy, not just dogs that are weaker and smaller, but they will often attack the humans that are feeding them, or anybody that comes between the food and their desire to survive.  Children are often attacked and those of us who have made it our crusade to help these animals know to keep close to the vehicle and feed quickly and efficiently in many spots to avoid the pack mentality and injury.  These dogs are often diseased, pregnant and/or nursing a littler, injured by cars, used for target practice among the residents, and are often the victims of purposeful and painful abuse.

It’s difficult for those of us who recognize these dogs as living, breathing, and valuable beings on this earth to drive by and not stop and try to help.  The gas stations regularly stock dog food because they know that the tourists passing through will buy a bag to feed these poorest of the society.  It’s good business and business owners are well aware that empathy for the animals will bring them profit.  Almost every person that has contacted me about these dogs has driven through the Burger King and bought bags of burgers to throw to them, myself included.  It’s in Burger King’s best interest then, to keep the dogs around as it increases their bottom line.  In my opinion Burger King as a corporation should be ashamed of what they have allowed to continue outside their store for years and years.  Burger King has enough money as a corporation that they could make a difference in the plight of these animals. And the same with the other businesses that profit from the tour buses that bring thousands of tourists to the area.  The hotels, most from some of the biggest chains in the nation do nothing for the animals surrounding their establishments.  At the very least they could exert pressure to help these animals by giving funding to those of us who have been willing to help.  Giving funds to the Navajo Nation itself has proven a waste of money, effort, and time.  I have one friend featured in the articles about the Kayenta dogs, Russ Mann, that sent a monthly stipend for years and discovered that none of his money was ever used to help the very dogs he was trying to assist.

And then we have the final result when the Navajo Nation, who doesn’t want the bad publicity, decides it’s time to end the problem.  They round up all the strays they can and dispose of them, and not through humane euthanization.  Then the problem begins anew and the cycle continues for years and years.

This summer I have been contacted by people from far and wide, even from as far away as Australia, about what to do with this problem.  Gary Pascoe was so appalled he wrote the tour company that hosted his trip through the valley and admonished them for their apathy to the situation. Anne Coble-Carrel sent me photos and asked how she could help these poor animals.  Most people don’t know of the laws and culture of the Reservation and it’s really tough for me to have to inform them that their best efforts will be met with resistance, condemnation, and denial by those who have the power to change the pattern.  I’ve had national celebrities email with offers to help, tourists, travelers, and animal lovers appalled by what they see.   Dead animals littering the roads, sleeping in the parking lots, taking cover where they can, limping about with injuries and mange.  Some of the dogs are friendly, others wary, and many more vicious – and who could blame those that still have the spirit to fight back against such abuse and apathy.

The problem continues, and until those businesses that fund the area show that they care, until the Indian Nation themselves decide to do something other than round them up and shoot them every couple of years, there is not much any of us can do.  We can feed, water, and show these animals as much compassion as we are allowed.  Beyond that, it will take pressure from those that have the power to make a difference and it’s difficult to help them see beyond their own financial bottom line. And it’s difficult for the individuals on the Reservation who do care and are so under-funded that they cannot even feed the few animals they can save.

For those of you who want to read about the road blocks thrown in our way, the plight of the dogs, the laws of the Indian Nation, the apathy from the populace, and what we’ve done to help there are many links from Life With Dogs to the blogs written, or you can access them here.  For those ready to make all sorts of suggestions know this: we have lined up fosters for many dogs, but the authorities refuse to round them up.  We’ve sent funds for vaccinations, and again, they don’t go to the dogs in need.  We have dropped food at the clinic for distribution only to return weeks later and find it had never been fed.  We’ve contacted rescues willing to help, but again, we get apathy by the busloads when push comes to shove and it’s time to bring the dogs in to find them a better life.  Our government won’t help; certainly those living on the Reservation won’t either.  The newspaper in Kayenta published a long article of several pages with my photo stating that I was making claims that were untrue, verbally attacking the local authorities for their lack of action, and basically making every excuse possible that this ‘problem’ was beyond my scope.  It was an attack on my personal character although I made every effort to work with the veterinarian, the city officials, and other rescue groups. I am clearly sensitive to the problematic cultural issues and I have tried to work within their own system to no avail.  But I have a problem accepting cruelty to animals labeled as ‘cultural differences.’

I encourage you to watch this video entitled ‘Rez Dogs.’  It clearly outlines the lives of these dogs.  30 minutes long it’s worth a view.  The authorities claim that they are doing everything they can about the problem, but there is no evidence that, years later, the problem is any better.

I often wonder as I drive to Kayenta with a carload of dog food if I will find the dogs there or if they will be gone.  If there isn’t a dog in sight I know that they have all met their end in a frightening and careless manner.  It makes my heart sick to see them alive and suffering, it makes me equally as nauseous to know that they have met their end.  For those of us committed to action it’s a heartbreaking cycle.  Even as I write this article I know that it may spur the anger of those on the Reservation, and the results are deadly to the dogs.  And so I continue to help in the best way I know how, and that is to provide what I can with loving kindness to the starving dogs.

I’ve seen animals so injured you know they haven’t long to survive.  I’ve witnessed bigger animals in a pack tear apart a Chihuahua and eat it seemingly alive.  I often see the dogs standing in the middle of the highway as if willing those of us with the power to put a stop to their suffering right then and there.   I see no end to the passive aggressiveness shown by a nation that prefers to be revered for their spiritual power and harmony with the land.  Kindness to animals and harmony with the world around you are not mutually exclusive.  At the very least, if the Indian Nation doesn’t have the capability or where-with-all to fix the problem themselves you would think they would be more accepting of those who are willing to take their problem on and work to solve the issues.


42 thoughts on “Kayenta Dogs Update

    1. Wonderful 3k there will do so much more in the long run! Sending your money here will actually help reduce the population and get them homes.

    2. Cindy Yurth here, president of the Blackhat Humane Society in Chinle, Ariz. (middle of the rez). Thank you, Jennifer, for linking to our web page and Facebook page. We rescue hundreds of animals a year, treat them for mange and parasites, spay or neuter them, socialize them in foster homes, and find them loving homes. We have two very dedicated volunteers in Kayenta who also feed the dogs and are slowly but surely getting the unowned ones off the streets. Kayenta, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are an estimated 200,000 strays on the Navajo Nation, which is the size of West Virginia. It’s a huge problem, but there are also problems with domestic violence, substance abuse, grinding poverty, violent crime, etc., etc. — none of which are getting the dollars or staffing they need. Being judgmental is not going to help us. Working together will. If you really want to help, please consider fostering an animal. It is not illegal to take animals off the rez. We do it all the time, and so does the Navajo Nation’s own Puppy Placement Program. Soul Dog Rescue of Colorado has regular spay-neuter clinics in Shiprock, Towaoc, Crownpoint and Chinle. If spay-neuter is your thing, send your dollars their way. Blackhat can use money to vaccinate and treat our fosters. Tenderfoot Rescue and Rez Dawg Rescue, two brand new non-profits on the eastern side of the rez, run regular puppy shuttles to shelters and rescues in Colorado, where they have a much better chance of finding homes. I know Susan has had run-ins with Dr. Begaye at Kayenta Animal Care Center, but it’s the only decent shelter on the rez and she has done more than you guys know. Clyde and Elissa McBride at Monument Valley High School are running a vet tech training program as part of the career and technical education there; I’ll bet they could use $$ as well, not to mention volunteer vets to come down and do clinics at their state-of-the-art clinic. We have some wonderful, dedicated Navajo volunteers here at Blackhat and I will not sit by and see the whole tribe slandered. Let’s stop the finger-pointing and work together, please!

      1. Cindy,

        Thanks for your response here, and yes Dr. Begaye and I have been head to head, which is truly unfortunate as I am trying my best to help this situation. I was told by the Navajo police and by Dr. Begaye herself that it was illegal to take dogs off the Reservation. Perhaps you are all allowed to do it because you are a rescue group. People must be very careful of breaking those laws and even more careful about loading up animals that have diseases etc, and taking them somewhere without proper vaccinations and vet care. Unfortunately, when we still see hundreds of dogs suffering it’s difficult to believe that everything is being done that possibly can be. It’s also tough when I have fosters lined up, transportation to different states volunteered and arranged, and I have to call week after week to see if these dogs have been picked up only to be told that nobody has yet had time. Dr. Begaye has claimed that the hundreds of pounds of food that I dropped off was fed, however, when I returned three weeks after donating it the food was still sitting right where it was unloaded. I myself put it back in my vehicle and fed it to the animals. Unfortunately they don’t understand that people don’t have time and they don’t have the luxury of waiting three weeks for food that they could have had earlier.

        And, even though your group does a great job, and you have people in the area, the problem is too big for any one group to solve. Other organization such as Best Friends, etc have been trying to help for years. Spay and Neuter clinics are terrific, but most of the strays are not rounded up to be taken to these events, and this is where the problem lies. Also people who donate to your organization cannot legislate where the money is used, so the dogs probably will continue to go hungry as the ones in your immediate care require food, shelter, and vet care also. Nobody is trying to ‘slander’ the tribe, in fact, many of us have great empathy for their problems and lifestyle and the fact that it’s almost impossible financially for them to do much. This is why so many donate their money and some of us take it upon ourselves to try to alleviate what suffering we can. Some have mentioned that if we didn’t feed there wouldn’t be a problem, that ‘nature’ would take it’s course. I think this is a very cruel way to close our eyes to the suffering of animals. I live in Colorado, and most every shelter here is full. I spent hours speaking with many on the phones to see if they would take some of the dogs from Kayenta. Most are full and overflowing, and they are not ‘no kill’ shelters. There would be no guarantee that those dogs would simply be put to death upon arrival. I am glad there are volunteers that are working to help, but when I receive email after email all summer long about the dogs in the area and the way they look I know that more help is needed and wish that someone would realize that not all of us are bad intentioned. Many of us would simply like to make all their lives more livable.


        1. It is great that you are feeding. If you have foster homes in Colorado, please network with Angela Cerci of Rez Dawg Rescue and Marisa Kim of Tenderfoot. They drive dogs to Colorado almost every weekend and would be anxious to know about any foster homes. They wouldn’t be the Kayenta dogs, but they will be rez dogs that need help. I’m looking at a copy of the Navajo Nation Animal Control Ordinance and don’t see anything about taking dogs off the rez. If it is illegal, I can’t imagine anyone stopping you. The Navajo Nation police are spread so thin they can barely take care of all the robberies and murders. They don’t have time to deal with people taking dogs off the rez. It is true it’s good to isolate them for a while to make sure you don’t spread mange, parvo or distemper, but if your other dogs are vaccinated then it’s not a huge worry. If you want to make sure some specific animals are fed, I can put you in touch with our Kayenta residents Cristy Twombly and Sondra Soter. They feed regularly and I can assure you they would be delighted to have more food.

          1. P.S. We just shipped one to New Jersey and the Navajo Nation veterinarian wrote me a health certificate. He knew exactly what I was doing and was happy to help. So if it is illegal, there are tribal officials who are willing to look the other way, apparently.

  1. I have lost any respect I had for the Navajo Nation. Their stubborn refusal to help the dogs when they created the problem in the first place condemns them in my book. If they want sympathy for the loss of their lands and how they have been treated then they may try finding some sympathy in their own hearts first because obviously they have none.
    For shame Navajo Nation! For shame!

  2. They should take their hatred of the white man out on the white man, not poor defenseless animals. That is cowardice.

  3. It’s unfair that the Kayenta dogs are being neglected, but it’s also unfair of us non-natives to look at the animal situation on the Navajo Nation in such black and white terms. While I am both a dog lover, dog owner/foster and volunteer for rescue, I have also traveled numerous times to the Reservation (Rez) – Tuba City, Kayenta, Shonto, surrounding areas, etc. – and seen dogs running freely. Many of these dogs are dirty, collarless, and not spayed/neutered, which itself is a major problem if we want to help curb the dog population. That being said, there are several things we should recognize about the culture, conditions, and attitudes on the Rez and not generalize the people as a whole as “apathetic savages”, as someone put it. (One could easily call us apathetic savages for eating factory farmed animals in our meals, but that’s another point and I digress.)

    1. On the rez, dogs tend to run free, but many do belong to families. They come home when they want to sleep, eat, give birth to a litter, etc., but they are not confined to a yard. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a fenced in “yard” on anyone’s property during my travels. These dogs can easily be mistaken for strays. From what I understand, dogs are simply allowed to coexist and be autonomous (corroborated by my Navajo boyfriend, born and raised on the rez). Of course, this only contributes to overpopulation if they aren’t spayed or neutered.

    2. Lack of education about proper animal are. Veterinarians are few & far between on the rez. It pains me to think about the unfixed animals continually breeding, but there simply isn’t enough resources, methods and people that are able to educate the locals about the benefits of spay/neuter. When the dog is running around freely, the family might not realize they are hurt, sick, pregnant, etc. and even once realized, may not have the financial means to seek professional care for the animal.

    3. Cultural skepticism over “white people” meddling in native affairs. History need no explanation here. Personally, I think efforts would be best suited toward finding local humane groups and well-connected Navajos who are animal lovers and who can help coordinate efforts with people like Ms. Stoltz to save the dogs. It will take time, but I am optimistic that things can be done.

    4. Bare bones resources stretch the Navajo Nation law enforcement extremely thin. There is less than 2 Navajo police offers per 1,000 people, and each officer is responsible for patrolling 70 square miles, putting human affairs first. NN Animal control is a division of the NN Department of Fish and Wildlife, and do the best they can given the huge expanse of land (26,000 sq. miles) and animals.

    5. Lack of funds for vet care is another huge problem. The reservation is stricken with high unemployment, poverty, and it’s share of social problems. This, combined with lack of education for animal care, is not good for the domesticated animals.

    Unlike the hateful comments that this article is bound to breed, there are groups on the NN that are working to help curb the stray overpopulation, educate locals and bring humane solutions to the situation. Here’s one resource that raises awareness and provides information & networking for animals in the NN: http://www.desertanimalcompanions.org/

    Like any population, there are good and bad people, but it would be a disgraceful fallacy to say that Navajos are hateful, neglectful or bad people as a whole. Instead of attacking them, we should be seeking ways to aid Dr. Holgate (local vet) and the Tuba City Humane Society so that these dogs can get the help they need.

    1. Sounds like people off the rez HAVE provided Dr Holgate and the Tuba City Humane Society with lots of aid – but this aid, for this specific purpose, is not getting to the animals. Misappropriation of funds in all other nations is called “embezzlement.” Yes, we acknowledge the historical “distrust of white people” and “lack of funds” – but this has become a absurd canard. NN must act responsibly and not hide behind PC. They HAVE gotten aid for this matter. If they are spending it for other purposes, this is breaking basic decency, not just “white man’s laws.” And “distrust of the white man” in this case is irrelevant.Why NN think they deserve an exception in this is not just. If you have connections to this community, I urge you to get involved.

      1. Thank you to these commenters for not just jumping on the hate wagon and actually offering solutions. Kudos!

      2. This is Cindy Yurth, the president of Blackhat Humane Society on the Navajo reservation. I know Dr. Holgate personally. She has spent a lot of her own money on her rescue efforts and found dozens of animals homes. She provides low-cost spay neuter clinics nearly monthly. She is not affiliated with the Navajo Nation, she is a veterinarian in private practice who could be making big money off the reservation, but she prefers to stay and help her people. Contrary to embezzling, she has generously donated her time and talents time and time again. We at Blackhat Humane wholeheartedly endorse her, and the other veterinarian in private practice, Dr. Ruby.

        1. Cindy, I don’t htink anybody here has accused Dr. Holgate of embezzling anything. This article is about what is happening in Kayenta – only.

          1. I am the director of the Tuba City Humane Society in partnership with Dr. Holgate and I really can’t believe that someone is accusing us of embezzling funds. We can account for every penny and no one is paid, except Dr. Holgate for the vet. bills to rehabilitate our rescues and to perform low cost spays and neuters. We also have to give full reports to all our grantors. We are all volunteers, even Dr. Holgate and her husband taking care of the rescues who are housed at their clinic which by the way is in their house. You can look up our website ( tuba city. petfinder)and see how hard we work without pay. Shame on you.

  4. Sorry but while making the reservation out as a villain, which doesn’t have enough for it’s own children as you have acknowledged isn’t the solution it’s the opposite. These dogs are NOT just from the Rez but are often abandoned by people outside of the rez. If you want to help you need to build bridges not burn them.

    Try not to be some sort of holier than though outsider whose never known what it’s like to have gone without food, never had to deal with the extreme social problems that poverty have cause and hasn’t had to grow up in a society where dogs have resorted back to the animals they were before we raised them to family members. This post is generally disappointing; it’s a bitch and blame. Instead you could start live trapping outside the rez, animals follow where food is so since these are loose/feral/stray dogs you can bate them.

    Ignorance of history is one thing but your apathy towards other humans is alarming. Their lack of apathy towards the animals is something you see in poor farming communities and poor communities all around the world. When one can’t provide for themselves and goes without why do you think they get annoyed when you come in and blame them for not having the resources to deal with an artificially created issue. (As you pointed out businesses and tourists who mean well are feeding and thus continuing a cycle of feral strays breeding.)

    Organize if you want to help the animals. Lure them off the rez on to any public land and take them. Really if people can lure dogs in war torn areas to locations where it’s legal to rescue them then it can be arranged, get a behaviorist involved or a professional animal control officer will have advice. It will be slow but it as long

    Or if you want to fix the situation start small and build relationships with the rez. There are rezs all over the US and many have successful relationships with Spay & Neuter organizations as well as rescues. To really fix the situation you should talk to a Navajo historian and they’ll help explain HOW and WHY the population is behaving that way instead being so blinded by the Hollywood Indian portrays. (painted faces saying “How” riding horses and hugging eagle spirits) Or if you don’t want to learn about the Navajo culture ASK an organization that is successfully working with a different reservation.
    Try working with any of these organizations the second link you may find highly interesting as it’s a Navajo Nation Humane Society.

    For every comment here saying “I thought all Indians revered all animals” pick up a history book and see how the US government and the British government before that has altered and isolated Native Populations. Hell get off your ass and go to a reservation and get stereotypes out of your head. Each tribe varies so differently from the next. =_=

    1. There is a lot more help for humans of any race, religion, protected status, age bracket or social orientation than there is help for animals. I have seen the same type of crap as what is being spewed by you and Gina trotted out in tribal horse abuse situations. At least try being a little more creative because your excuses are getting mighty worn out.

      Clearly the tribes do not care even about their own children if the level of physical, mental, emotional (and even educational) abuse of the tribes’ own children is any indication.

      DO NOT assume that anyone here who is supporting the better treatment of animals than most tribes are providing have “never gone without.” You need some diversity training to help you outgrow some of your deliberately ignorant assumptions about people who disagree with what you apparently believe that the tribes can do no wrong. I am in complete support of Susan and moreover have worked on horse rescue issues where there is THE most horrific abuse imaginable PERPETRATED BY NATIVE TRIBES ON THEIR REZS. And FYI I myself grew up in extreme poverty with severely physically abusive parents (but still graduated from college with honors), I have been homeless twice in the past which was caused by divorce from an abusive alcoholic spouse and then job loss when my employer closed up shop BUT I would deny myself food before allowing my dog to go hungry.

      So, Logic, I HAVE STANDING TO DISPUTE WHAT IS BEING DONE TO THE REZ DOGS. So does everyone here who CARES and whether or not they donate is immaterial – ESPECIALLY when DONATED money, DONATED food and DONATED services go MISUSED or “disappeared” by those receiving the donations – which certainly are not the DOGS!!

  5. Gina – it’s quite obvious by your response that you have not bothered to read the blogs about the struggle I had with the officials on the REZ. To make blind assumptions that I do not know what poverty is like is to be rather narrow. In my life I have lost everything, my business, house, belongings, just about all I had. I know poverty, I know what it’s like to not know where your next nickel is coming from. I do not condone the racist and blatantly prejudiced comments on this thread. You mention the history of the Indian, and I think we would all agree that it is abhorrent, but that was in the past. To consider it acceptable to deny animals the basic care they need due to past injustices that they had nothing to do with is just bad logic. I was not there when these injustices were perpetrated, and therefore to hold me responsible in any way is an injustice in itself. There comes a time when a people must let go of the past, no matter what wrongs were committed in order to continue into the future and go forward. It’s wrong when people have been willing to give their time, money, effort and compassion to solve a problem to be met with apathy and hostility. If they cannot fix the problem themselves then they should let those who are willing do the job. Just watching the animals suffer on a daily basis is unacceptable no matter where in the world you live. There have been spay and neuter programs, rescue organization etc that have donated hours and hours of time and much in the way of money to this problem, and it still continues today.

    As to your suggestion that we stand outside the borders of the REZ with traps and LURE the dogs out there???? What – are you nuts?? It’s hundreds of miles away. Do you actually think the dogs will simply get up and begin to travel that direction because some idiot is standing out there with bait? More than likely it would attract coyotes, wolves, or other wildlife, but the packs of starving dogs in Kayenta are not going to even know the food is there!! And it’s easy for you to legislate how we solve the problem when you are flinging about your opinions but not following up with action of any kind. My suggestion to you is that YOU stand out in the 110 degree heat with your traps and bait and see just what you may lure in. AYAYAY

    There comes a time when being politically correct is simply amplifying a problem, making excuses to find what is abhorrent acceptable, and doing a huge injustice to people who should be behaving like responsible adults rather than pointing fingers at everybody else. The dogs starving have nothing to do with the way people treated the Indians, that is an convenient excuse for inaction. It is unacceptable no matter where in the world it happens, no matter what country, what neighborhood or nationality.

    1. Yay – It’s about time someone shot straight from the hip. Susan is right on the money, and bless her for her efforts rather than condemn her for politically correct crap.

    2. Susan,

      Let me first start by saying that I encourage and appreciate what you are trying to do for the rez dogs. It wasn’t my intention to lambast your efforts in trying to motivate people on the rez and feed the dogs, as I believe that we have a responsibility to take care of our domesticated friends as best as we can. I don’t doubt that you have spent many tears, dollars, time and sweat (it’s hot out there!) dedicated to improving the lives of the Kayenta dogs and that your efforts have saved the lives of many. Unfortunately when it comes to politics, the innocents tend to lose. And as your experiences will tell you, this is not a one-sided issue, and in particular, the care of the dogs is not something that can be solved by a single person.

      My issue was with the the tone of your article, and the resulting hateful comments over which you had little control. Your article was dripping with spite, not toward the individuals who got in your way, but to faceless, general members of the populace, some of whom are working to help the situation as you can see from the resources shared on this page. It read more like an angry blog entry than a professional article, rife with emotional and hypothetical value judgments, particularly toward the end of the article and it left a bad tasted in my mouth. I felt it necessary to dispel the comments like those calling natives “apathetic savages” (user comment) and attempt to redirect the conversation to something more constructive. Most Americans don’t know much about life on reservations (not that they are all the same), but I believe it’s your responsibility as a journalist reporting from that location to be fact-driven. (Also, I was not and would not make assumptions about your personal life experiences with poverty. If it came off that way, I apologize. Also I was not the one to suggest “luring” the animals to the border as a solution, which I think is preposterous.)

      I agree and sympathize with many of your points, as I struggled to come to terms with the many free-roaming, skinny, and dirty dogs on the rez on my short visits. Of all people, you would know that to help fix a large scale problem, you first have to understand the situation then collaborate on ways to solve it by working together. You mention that cultural sensitivity should be recognized but not fixated upon, but we aren’t just talking about the European invasion hundreds of years ago, we are talking about years and years (to present) of broken promises, government overreaching, and native appropriation. This, however, does NOT excuse individuals from reneging on their responsibilities to care for their animals, and I think that the local authorities (and dogs!) would benefit immensely by collaborating with someone as passionate as you.

      I am on your side. I support efforts like yours (and have put resources where my mouth is aside from fostering and re-homing animals) and would like to see more updates on how you are affecting change. Identify groups, doctors, clinics, shelters, rescues, individuals who are helping you to garner support, both on the rez and not. Keep trying and find people on the rez who are willing to work with you to make sure any funds are being spent appropriately. As a dog-lover and a reader of this website, I want to see ways that I can help, as well as efforts that are already being made that can be strengthened by my support. I’d like to see you continue to be vocal, but just be mindful of the ways your writing can not only inspire change, but also inspire negativity.

  6. I have read the above comments and offer the following. Why can’t people just move on – the Indian wars are over – the white men who caused them are long gone – we need to fix the current problems – why can’t the reservation sack the current animal shelter management who have been totally useless – employ more responsive and caring individuals to run it – rebuild the shelter so that it can function properly – accept all the help being offerred by the other shelters who are very willing to pitch in as the current bad PR is reflecting on them as well – approach the Tour companies, Burger King, McDonalds etc for donations as I suspect they would be more than willing to assist so this problem could vanish and stop the complaints that they receive as a result of the evident cruelty – then look at progressive ways to become self funding as the other shelters/societies have done. Less talk and more action would be good for everyone. Just do it.

  7. Gina – I and most other people do not want to hear about the past – the situation just needs some common sense action – action that should have been done years ago. Ask your boyfriend to talk to the elders who control the money – they know what needs to be done. Fix the problems so that we can all move on. Monument Valley is a beautiful place spoilt by the cruel inaction of a few.

  8. Yes, people who have all sorts of opinions on what SHOULD be done and sit back, contribute NOTHING, and judge those who are actually doing what they can ought to probably keep their uninformed opinions to themselves. That someone drives hundreds of miles just to feed the animals should be applauded, supported, and assisted, not condemned, ridiculed, and criticized.

  9. I agree – Susan is just trying to help these animals – why she draws so much criticism is beyond me, why can’t these people either put up or shut up. These negative posters must have a terrible life.

    1. Why would I donate money to her when I can donate to the organizations fixing the problem by rescuing the dogs?

      3k to the organizations that keep getting linked by commenters that work with the rez and offer these dogs up for adoption is going to be more long term.

      Feeding the population is actually why it got so large because if you just left it to the ecosystem it wouldn’t be. So that’s like saying instead of supporting spay and neuter I should keeping feeding stray cats which causes more stray cats.

  10. You can help by providing some funding to Susan, who travels to Kayenta to feed strays.
    You can donate to Blackhat Humane Society, which does not have a shelter, but does have a group of fosters, who rescue, vet, socialize and then place animals in permanent homes. Follow them on FB: http://www.facebook.com/blackhathumane (and yes, you cannot guarantee funds will go directly to Kayenta dogs, as Susan has pointed out).
    You can donate to Tuba City Humane Society: tubacity.petfinder.org, and you can specify funds for Kayenta, they have a local rescuer/foster in Kayenta, you could place some of her animals in permanent homes, thereby making more room for her to rescue.
    You could donate to Soul Dog Rescue, who provide large-scale free or low-cost spay/neuter clinics on the Navajo Nation and also rescue a lot of animals while doing so: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Soul-Dog-Rescue/226119877468068 .
    These groups are all working in a long-term way to help, and not any one of them can “solve” the problem, but each makes a difference to each animal they help. There is a lot of suffering, and plenty of ways to help.

  11. Oh for heaven’s sake it is LONG past time for tribes to STOP WALLOWING in the whitey-done-us-wrong litany of abuses. We all of us know about the past. We are sorry, okay??? And there have been many, many rights-of-wrongs over the past century – not that those are ever actually acknowledged by tribes. But TODAY RIGHT NOW is the best possible time for YOU to start doing the right thing for yourselves and for these animals.

    If you read Susan’s detailed public journal of her heartbreaking years-long fruitless efforts to help these dogs you will understand that she has been forcefully and abusively thwarted at every single turn, including the fact that the woman vet who ran the local clinic where literally thousands of donated dollars went missing and hundreds of pounds of donated dog food went unused while sick and hungry dogs were left without shelter, food or water in weather conditions NO animal should ever be exposed to.

    THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR TREATING ANIMALS LIKE THIS. I am REALLY sick and tired of the often-used “cultural” excuse. FORGET politically correct – the dogs do not understand POLITICALLY CORRECT and I am not convinced that making cultural excuses is politically correct, anyway! So – Repeat: There IS no excuse for treating animals like this. YOU, Navajo Nation, are solely responsible for what YOU do and just because in the past someone “done you wrong” is NO REASON to take out your hatred on innocent animals.

    1. Haha people are stupid! I don’t even see any natives commenting on how white people did them wrong! The ones who are saying it are the white people! The white people are only doing it to make an argument that this is why…. which is just an assumption on their part. I wish people would stop being ignorant and judgemental off of one article, Go do the research yourself and quite moaning about something and do something about it. Your all sitting on your computers complaining, and making accusations quite being lazy do some research and do something about it. In short don’t be stupid anymore. Do the world a favor, and don’t believe everything on the internet.

  12. At least half of the spay/neuter concept (that of neutering) is resisted by certain cultures who seem to identify animals’ “masculinity” with their own and apparently they have not evolved to the point where they can understand that neutering a dog does not compromise tribal males’ testosterone-worship.

  13. This is one of the most ridiculous threads I have ever read. There are good and bad Navajos, and good and bad whites, skin color really has nothing to do with the animal control problem in Kayenta. I have fostered countless dogs in the 5 years I have been here, not to mention the seven I currently have, in addition to the five cats and two turtles that I have managed to collect. The problem is one of under education, and poverty. The reservation has a median income of $25K annually, with a local graduation rate in Kayenta that hovers around 60%. Unemployment reservation-wide stays around 50%. So you tell me, is it a problem with the local vets, culture or one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? The Navajo Nation tribal government has more important things to worry about, like getting water to the countless number of homes that don’t have indoor plumbing and have to haul water. There’s a reason the dogs are neglected, mangy, malnourished, full of worms, hungry and thirsty. About half of the people living on the Rez are unable to care for the dogs because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and of the half that are able, many do foster, feed and water. Until you live on the Rez, walk a mile in my animal rescuing shoes, please don’t judge. You only perpetuate the hate-mongering.

    1. So, what is the “excuse” for young tribal males entertaining themselves by using rez dogs for target practice?

      If we do not JUDGE according to our PRINCIPLES AGAINST ANIMAL NEGLECT AND ABUSE then nothing gets done.

      JUDGING is not the same as understanding or excuse making. Wanting a better life for animals and – YES – condemning animal abuse and neglect including torture, which is the correct definition of the above-referenced “entertainment”, is NOT “hate-mongering.”

      Yes – “Anonymous” hiding behind anonymity – I JUDGE THESE REZ RESIDENTS TO BE NEGLECTFUL, CRUEL, AND ABUSIVE TO ANIMALS. Maybe they should spend less time whining about their problems and MORE time taking action to help these animals with the thousands of donated dollars and hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of donated food and accepted with GRATITUDE the help offered to them countless times but REJECTED.

    2. So you think a post and contributions concerning abused and neglected animals is “ridiculous”? Don’t quote Maslow to ME, honey. If YOU think that expressions of concern about these dogs is “ridiculous” then frankly I suspect you are either not telling the truth about your self-exalted “rescue” project OR you have an agenda that is not appropriately consistent with animal rescue. And DO NOT suggest that anyone cannot form an opinion of what goes on without “living on the Rez” as you demand. THAT is indeed RIDICULOUS. I would take the word of people who selflessly work for the better lives of animals before I would take seriously your admonishing those who don’t live on the rez as being without basis for drawing conclusions – especially the correct ones!

  14. It is heartbreaking, yet not surprising, that large numbers of homeless animals–primarily dogs–still roam the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta.

    It is obvious that the sheer number of stray animals is overwhelming for the Kayenta Animal Care Center (KACC) staff and facility. As such, the easiest, most practical solution is to build a new, larger shelter–ideally, a sanctuary to provide a safe haven for all kinds of animals. The perfect blueprint for this is the sanctuary operated by Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.

    The establishment of a sanctuary would be a win-win situation for Kayenta’s residents, both human and animal. The amount of stray dogs roaming the reservation would be reduced. As a result, there were would be fewer attacks on people and livestock. The homeless animals would be provided the humane treatment they deserve. Tourists visiting Kayenta would leave with a more favorable impression, as opposed to being appalled, heartbroken, and frustrated upon seeing so many homeless animals crying out for help. It would alleviate the overburdened KACC staff and facility. As is done in the KACC, a sanctuary would be another resource where Monument Valley High School students who aspire to be veterinarians or veterinary assistants, or who simply want to feel good about volunteering, could work with various kinds of animals and gain invaluable hands-on experience. A sanctuary would help the Kayenta economy because it would be built by local residents, and there would be a continuous need for food and supplies from the local stores. Depending on the location of the sanctuary, local restaurants, and perhaps hotels, could possibly see increased business activity.

    It troubles and puzzles me that Navajo and non-Navajo cannot come to an agreement that will offer a permanent solution to the homeless animals problem. It’s time to put differences aside and start working to end the suffering once and for all. I know that not all Navajo are unsympathetic towards strays. Many truly love animals and do whatever they can to help them, despite their own economic hardship. One woman sent me an email asking who she could contact regarding a horse that was left outside in the cold to fend for itself. A new sanctuary which would address the needs of all homeless animals would remedy any future problems such as this.

    It is time to stop resisting all outside offers to help. There are people right now who are willing and able to help support the KACC with donations. I’m sure a larger facility in the form of a sanctuary would be a welcome addition. People want it. The animals need it. Land is available. Financial resources are available.

    America is woven of many strands. As Americans, let us not continue to fight against one another, but do what is just. Kayenta’s officials should overwhelmingly approve construction of an animal sanctuary on the reservation, and it should be approved and built as quickly as possible.

    Russ Mann
    Chelmsford, MA
    [email protected]

  15. I recently moved to the four corners region of Utah to teac in a Navajo school. While I adore the children and am blown away by both their history and their current levels of poverty, I have to say that the obvious lack of care for animals by many Navajo is appalling, and the Navajo teachers with whom I work are the first point out that most Navajo treat their horses like junk…many look near starvation. The dogs that many don’t allow to run free are chained in all weather on very short chains to ramshackle doghouses if they are lucky or if not, to old tires. It is sickening to see. No one seems to care. It is just accepted. For a people who have ceremonies to honor animals they hunt for food, this is truly inconceivable to me. I feed the horses that live near me on the sly the best I can, but it is hard to not get caught and I don’t have enough money to buy enough food. The dogs simply make me cry. I want to sneak out at night and cut the chains of the dogs and steal them, but I can’t lose my job….it is just awful…and it has nothing to do with being PC or not….the suffering inflicted on animals here is beyond disgusting.

  16. I have personally traveled through this reservation, during the 4 hours I was there I met more than 7 stray dogs in the Wells Fargo parking lot by mcdonalds. I found them when making a food stop while on a road trip. I stopped to help dogs of who who were both not afraid of human interaction and afraid and fed them the dog food I had for my dog who was traveling with me. my dog, played with these animals, gave those who were unsure of my intentions reassurance and would had loved to bring them all home with us. However, when I was feeding the strays food, multiple residents of the reservation gave me dirty looks and came to the vacant lot to watch me and try to intimadate me into leaving. I whittnessed them taughnt the starving dogs with food and laugh at them. I searched near by shelters and humane society’s and the closest one was in flagstaff. being that it’s illegal to take the dogs off the reservation there was no way of helping these dogs. I ended up dumping my dogs 50 lb bag of dog food in multiple spots around the area for the dogs to eat. With tears in my eyes I kissed the ones who trusted me enough to goodbye and told the ones who didn’t I loved them and my boyfriend and my dog began to leave. We were then followed and harassed by those in the cars who came to the lot to watch me give the love to the animals in need that they deserved. they followed us until we reached flagstaff. We were so terrified that we had to call the flagstaff police on our way off the reservation in attempt to get help. before this event happened I still believed in what I was taught in history class about native Americans and their beliefs about animals being sacred. I now am terrified to ever step foot in an reservation again. I understand I cannot let one ruin it for them all but the experience I had and being terrified for my life it’s hard to get over. I am an animal lover and will never regret helping them, but because of those residents who chose to terrorize us, this reservation deserves the bad publicity that it does not want.

    1. Have you ever stopped to think hmmm maybe they were getting food too or needed to stop? the world doesn’t revolve around you. Your probably making it all up in your own head… sad really. Can’t trust a brown person eh. because all brown people only want to hurt you. Sickening the way you think.

  17. I worked for BIA yrs ago in Kayena. Each family recievdd $20k a yr from the mining of cole at Black Mesa Mine about 20 miles west of Kayenta. A lot of money in the early 80s. Is it closed? Even if it is they are cared for from womb to tomb. I can tell stories of those sick degenerate people that would make your hair curl.

    1. probably the families who worked for the coal mine received 20,000 a year. Never has anybody else. obviously your lying and you just sound racist, which I bet you are from what you said at the end.

  18. Ann Emery your the sick degenerate. and everybody else do your own research! don’t trust 1 post on the internet! Don’t be dumb! All those we don’t want to hear what the white people did to the natives people. It was white people saying it and white people using it as an argument of just because it happened don’t take it out on the animals! Get a life everyone! Quite complaining and if it upsets you guys that much you all should get together and DO SOMETHING! FYI you all sound racist when complaining about how natives are supposed to be about nature, and using that as an argument! Hello it is the 2000’s! People could make the argument that because white people didn’t bathe back in the day that is why there is so much disease in the world. Which in history is true, we white people were disgusting. So quite talking about history you guys are the ones bringing it up. And for those of you who are arguing that animal life is more important than human and that everyone who is starving should give up their food for an animal… your crazy and your thinking is a bit off( maybe a lot). Remember don’t believe everything on the internet. Best of wishes to you all!

  19. I am so shocked, and saddened, and disappointed by so many of these comments. I don’t even know where to start. You do not enact positive change by spewing messages of hate and racism, rife with cultural insensitivity, ignorance, and judgment. These are the very attitudes that breed mistrust, and ultimately prevent cooperation. I went through the Navajo Nation (we drove through the Painted Desert, to Tuba City, to Page); yes, seeing those dogs broke my heart, without question. But it is not my place, nor my right, to pass judgments on a group of people that I know virtually nothing about. As an outsider who wants to help these dogs, I think it’s important to first ask Navajo organizations, “What can I do?” and to assist in the ways that you are asked to. Respect the fact that the Navajo Nation belongs to the Navajo people, and you are merely a guest.

  20. While this is an old post, it is still…and likely always will be…relevant. I resonate with one of the fellow posters on this thread. I, too, accepted a job to teach at a very remote school (which shall remain unnamed) near the Four Corners. The conditions that the animals must endure day in and day out is appalling and sickening. I must reject the notion that high poverty has anything to do with the maltreatment of animals. While the Navajo Nation indeed suffers from alarming rates of poverty and other social disease, the Navajo Nation is also subject to generous amounts of federal dollars. Tribal members get free health care and often times free or reduced-rent housing through NHA. Sure, some live in their own trailers on home-site leases (as they are called), but all things considered, the Navajo Nation members receive many benefits that other similarly disenfranchised communities do not.
    Unfortunately, animal neglect and indifference to suffering is the norm, not the exception. Dogs are chained up with ramshackle (if any) dog houses to endure the harshest of elements…there is no escape.
    The concept of responsible animal ownership seems foreign and comical to most. It is simply not taken seriously. Sure, these things happen in other communities, too, but I believe that the rate at which these behaviors occur on the Navajo Reservation are simply much, much higher than in other low-SES communities.
    I see people driving $80,000 diesel trucks, yet their animals are starving to death and are shown no love. It is not a matter of “cultural differences” but rather a cruel indifference to the value of life.
    Wake up, Navajo Nation. If you want to be respected and taken seriously, then you must re-prioritize!

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