REDUCING ANIMAL SUFFERING
By Leila Parker & Joe Griffin
Toby & Wilma at Nambe Pueblo
Animal Alliance is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 by Dr. Hugh Wheir, a Santa Fe veterinarian. Its purpose is to alleviate animal suffering, and to preserve and protect endangered species. In 1987, Dr. Wheir was contacted by the Universidad de Benito Juarez de Oaxaca, in Mexico, for his assistance in controlling the wild dog population in that area. The dogs were not only a threat to the local residents, but to the endangered Leatherback and Olive Ridley sea turtles nesting on the beaches of Oaxaca. Feral dogs were responsible for the destruction of some 25,000 sea turtle nests, each containing approximately 100 eggs, in one nesting area alone that year.
Domestically and worldwide, millions of “surplus’ animals are destroyed each year. Dr. Wheir was fully aware that dog and cat overpopulation is the number one cause of animal suffering, and that this overpopulation crisis is an international one. In response to the environmental disaster taking place on the most important sea turtle nesting areas in the world, Dr. Wheir began conducting free spay-newer clinics, and training Veterinary students in surgical procedures in Oaxaca. This ongoing program was further enhanced in 1994 when Animal Alliance, in collaboration with Humane Society International, pioneered the use of a chemical sterilant, Zinc Arginine (Neutersol). This non-surgical procedure is safe, humane, and cost-effective, and can effectively reduce overpopulation by chemically neutering male dogs. It is the nexus of an unprecedented project that could lead to widespread use of this procedure in the United States, Mexico, and many developing countries. Field trial studies are being conducted in Mexico, Costa Rica and recently in Phoenix, Houston, and New York. Dr. Wheir hopes that Neutersol will have FDA approval within two years for commercial use in the United States.
In 1991, at the request of Cochiti Pueblo residents, overwhelmed by the sheer number of feral dogs in that area of New Mexico, Animal Alliance began providing spay-neuter services, and developed a model mobile free spay-neuter clinic to overcome the financial, cultural, and geographic limitations of traditional spay-neuter services. The response of many of the Pueblos since that time has been tremendous. In 1992-1995, over 60 clinics were held at 12 Native American Pueblos and the Navajo Nation. In 1996, some 33 clinics were held at 19 pueblos, and the Navajo and Ute Reservations.
Animal Alliance had another very successful year in 1997, conducting spay-neuter and vaccination clinics on Native American Reservations and Pueblos. Over 20 clinics were held on Sandia, Acoma, Laguna, Pojoaque, Nambe, Cochiti, Picuris, Taos, Tesuque, Zuni, Santa Ana, Jemez, Isleta, and Zia Pueblos, and Mescalero, Navajo, Southern and Mountain Ute Reservations. 569 dogs and cats were spayed or neutered, and 1,663 animals were vaccinated. Animal Alliance solicited over 50 veterinarians, veterinarian-technicians, and other hardworking volunteers to accomplish this huge volume of work. Many volunteers have given generously of their time, skills, and heartfelt energies to offer these much needed services.
Animal Alliance provides and transports all medical and surgical supplies and equipment to these often remote locations, and also coordinates all clinics. In addition to spay-neuter activities, Animal Alliance also provides vaccinations for feline and canine distemper, and as of 1996, for rabies, in collaboration with Indian Health Services. This was the first time Animal Alliance was able to give rabies shots on the Pueblos. After years of requests, it was great to be able to provide this important service.
On Pueblos where Animal Alliances hard working team of volunteers has performed consistent, repeated clinics, (dog and cat populations have decreased to a manageable level. Where this has occurred, Animal Alliance has developed a scaled-back maintenance version of the clinic which requires fewer resources, and allows the team to move into other areas where their services are urgently required. The Navajo Nation is one of these areas. Encompassing parts of three states, it has a wild dog population of over 140,000. Attacks on humans, wildlife and livestock are epidemic. Another area of major concern are the Pueblos adjoining the growing urban areas of New Mexico. The incidence of animal dumping on those Pueblos (Sandia, Isleta, Tesuque, Pojoaque and others) is rising exponentiallv with the increase in the urban populations of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Española.
One of the goals of Animal Alliance is to coordinate their efforts with other animal welfare organizations, which will also allow time and energy to be spent on developing and implementing a comprehensive educational effort on the Pueblos, in the schools, and at community centers, to teach the children about humane animal care and environmental education.
Animal Alliance also continues to dedicate their ongoing efforts to protect and preserve Leatherback and Olive Ridley sea turtles during their nesting season along the Oaxacan coastal region of Mexico, and, with local partnerships, to further develop their goals of protection, preservation and education.
Sea turtles in Mexico Dr. Wheir and amiga
Animal Alliance’s Vision
In recognition of the interdependence of life between animals, humans, and our shared environment. Animal Alliance is dedicated to the protection of wildlife, the alleviation of animal suffering and the preservation of our environment. ln collaboration with local communities we implement programs which strengthen the connection between humans and animals, while educating and empowering people to take responsible action. ln reducing overpopulation of domestic and feral animals and protecting underpopulated species facing extinction, we work to alleviate suffering on both ends of the spectrum. With delicate ecosystems, the two are inextricably linked.
Together with veterinarians, researchers, biologists, and educators in the communities where we are active, we work to foster an atmosphere of protection and preservation.
Leila Parker is a kinesiologist. Joe Griffin has been a volunteer for Animal Alliance.
Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 1998 issue.
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