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Where Reservations Need You

Outside groups partner with tribal members to bring veterinary care to underserved community

  • Puppy weighed during clinic at Fort Apache Indian Reservation

    Veterinary students Chris Latimer (front) and Ryneil Castro weigh a pup during a clinic organized by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association at the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona. GENEVIEVE KLUVER

Life is hard for people on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, and it’s tough for their animals, too.

There’s a high rate of canine infectious disease, such as parvovirus and distemper, and there are occasional human deaths due to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a zoonotic, tick-borne illness. Pet overpopulation is rampant, because residents lack both the ability to pay for spay/neuter surgery as well as access to the services.

"The only service [on the reservation] is the picking up of dead animals that are hit by cars, and that’s because of transportation laws by the state and the federal government," says Kathleen Norton, former board president and a volunteer at the Humane Society of the White Mountains in Lakeside.

Many of the roughly 15,000 residents are poor and unemployed, and many live in communities located a lengthy drive from a veterinary clinic or animal shelter. An average trip for veterinary care is a one-hour drive each way, and a typical household has one vehicle that’s shared by five or more family members. Insurance coverage is spotty, and travel is burdensome, Norton says.

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