Pandemic hinders animal control on Navajo Nation - Albuquerque Journal

Pandemic hinders animal control on Navajo Nation

Gallup Independent

GALLUP – Gloria Skeet used to run a couple of miles from her home to her sister’s place on the Navajo Nation just south of Gallup – until the dogs started to chase her.

“It was around 2008 that I started developing anxiety because there was a pack of dogs that would follow me,” Skeet, the Bááháálí Chapter manager told the Gallup Independent. “I was running with my dogs and I felt safe with them, but after that man in Sundance was killed by a pack of dogs, I thought, ‘Oh my God, when are they going to find my dead body?’ ”

Skeet was referring to Larry Armstrong, a 55-year-old Navajo man who was found dead in 2010 on a dirt road about 5 miles east of Gallup. When law enforcement found Armstrong, a pack of malnourished dogs was gnawing on his body. Armstrong, who suffered from seizures, died from dog bites, according to the autopsy.

Skeet, who has rescued dozens of dogs and even adopted some from her community and from the side of the highway, said there are thousands of dogs roaming in the Bááháálí Chapter area, and they mostly belong to someone. She said some families can’t afford to feed them and let them roam, fend for themselves and multiply in numbers that have become unmanageable.

“In just one Navajo camp, there are 92 dogs. And one family has about 18 dogs,” she said. “The thing is, the Navajo Nation has some really good laws but it does not have the capacity to enforce these laws.”

Navajo Nation Animal Control manager Kevin Gleason told the Independent that homeowners are allowed to have up to four dogs. At Navajo Housing Authority rentals, tenants can have two.

It’s hard to enforce those laws when the Navajo Nation has only six animal control officers for an area that spans about 27,000 square miles. Gleason said when his officers impound a dog, the violator “just gets another dog.”

Last year, the pandemic forced Navajo authorities to shut down three of four animal shelters – in Tuba City and Many Farms, Arizona, and Shiprock. The only open shelter was in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and only two officers worked for most part of 2020.

Gleason said his officers normally pick up or receive about 20,000 to 30,000 dogs a year. About 80 to 90% of the animals taken to those shelters are euthanized. In 2020, his program picked up or received about 7,000.

Gleason estimates the dog population on the reservation to be back at 250,000 dogs, just like 10 years ago.

The pandemic not only affected animal shelters, it also impacted spay and neuter efforts and other veterinarian services.

Dr. Kelly Upshaw-Bia, Navajo Nation veterinary with the Navajo Nation Veterinary Program based in Tse Bonito, said the vet mobile unit was not used during the pandemic. The unit typically travels through the Navajo Nation, providing vaccination and spay and neuter services in rural areas where families otherwise would not have access to vet services.

Upshaw-Bia said spay and neuter efforts may help control the dog population, but she believes there’s a need for grassroots efforts and education in these communities.

“Community support is important. I don’t know if we are there yet,” she said.

She said there were times when the vet unit would go to rural communities and only a handful of people would show up.

“That can be an issue. We try to pick up chapters that are more active,” Upshaw-Bia said.

The Navajo Nation Veterinary Program has two vets on staff spaying and neutering every week, including Upshaw-Bia. In an average week, she spays and neuters about 20-25 dogs. Spay and neuter efforts are provided at the vet clinics on the Navajo Nation by appointment. Usually, they are booked a month in advance.

“It would be nice to have more clinics, but you would need more veterinarians,” she said.

Back at the Bááháálí Chapter, Skeet said the last time a mobile unit visited her community for a spay and neuter clinic was many years ago. She’s certain her community would take advantage of a low-income spay and neuter clinic because when the tribe offers a “surrender day” for people to give up unwanted dogs, they show up with dozens of dogs and cats.

“I know 99% of those dogs and cats are going to be euthanized and I don’t want to be here when they have the surrender day,” she said. “That breaks my heart.”

Home » From the newspaper » Pandemic hinders animal control on Navajo Nation


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Picture perfect as 50th Balloon Fiesta kicks off
ABQnews Seeker
50th Balloon Fiesta kicks off 50th Balloon Fiesta kicks off
2
Renters seek city assistance amid soaring costs
ABQnews Seeker
Rent for 1-bedroom apartments up 42% ... Rent for 1-bedroom apartments up 42% since pandemic began
3
Video released of June police shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Officers involved have been returned to ... Officers involved have been returned to duty, APD says
4
APD investigates 'suspicious death' on West Side
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are investigating an apparent ... Albuquerque police are investigating an apparent homicide on the city's West Side. Around 7:40 a.m. Sunday, Albuquerque Fire Rescue notified police about a person ...
5
Take note: Balloon Fiesta is a no-drone zone
ABQnews Seeker
Drone-detection service to monitor the skies ... Drone-detection service to monitor the skies for unauthorized fliers
6
No strings attached to capital funds for APS this ...
ABQnews Seeker
Analysts have also floated the idea ... Analysts have also floated the idea of partially or completely forgiving offsets
7
Lawmakers focus on prescribed burns after disastrous fire season
ABQnews Seeker
Expert notes that ecosystems that are ... Expert notes that ecosystems that are 'ecologically out of whack' must
8
Santa Fe journalist chosen to speak at Dixon Awards
ABQnews Seeker
Transparency awards luncheon set for Thursday Transparency awards luncheon set for Thursday
9
Rent relief has helped over 41K ABQ residents
ABQnews Seeker
State funds paired with federal funding ... State funds paired with federal funding provided $185.5M
10
New immersive experience lets eventgoers interact with the legendary ...
Arts
The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum saw an ... The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum saw an opportunity to work with Albuquerque-based Electric Playhouse to create 'Music For The Eyes: A New Georgia O'Keeffe Experience