Kayenta Dogs Update

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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. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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.

  4. 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. 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.

  6. 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.


  7. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!


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