Lakota Animal Care is a community-based 501c(3) non-profit organization that works to enhance the relationship between people and their pets on the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, leading to more humane treatment of animals and a more healthful environment for both people and animals. Tribal members trained as "Lakota Animal Care Givers" accomplish this through four core programs. The Basic Animal Health Care Program, accompanied by the Enhancing Awareness and Compassion Program, the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program and the Foster Care and Adoption Program seek to catalyze and support positive lasting change in the way animals are treated in our communities.
The Basic Animal Health Care Program
There are no veterinarians on this vast 2 million acre Reservation. Our Basic Animal Health Care program now offers hope for animals where none existed before. It is highly innovative, being the only community-based animal health care non-profit organization on any Reservation in the United States. The program includes:
Training of local Tribal members as Lakota Animal Care Givers. A certification program was established and is in place to ensure a common standard of training and competence in the provision of basic animal health care. Relationships have been established with veterinarians and other animal care experts around the State and around the country who have volunteered time to come to the Reservation to train the Lakota Animal Care Givers. Provision of basic animal health care including vaccinations against diseases such as distemper and parvo, which are rampant on the Reservation, treatment of mange, flea/tick treatment, basic wound care, treatment of infections, porcupine quill removal and other basic animal health care.
Lakota Animal Care Giver training with Dr. Sasse
Clarence documenting animal medical information.
Pete giving a Distemper/Parvo vaccination.
Emergency Transport. Emergency transport to the closest veterinarian when cases require more than basic animal health care, such as in the case of broken bones and when surgery or euthanasia is required. (The closest veterinarian to our communities is in another State -- Nebraska.)
Vicky feeding a very ill and puppy.
The Spay/Neuter Assistance Program
A grant from a foundation has enabled us to start a long-term spay/neuter program for dogs on the Reservation in partnership with Tribal Animal Control and an off-Reservation veterinary clinic. Approximately 30 dogs will now be fixed every month. This will have a positive impact on both the individuals and the population as a whole.
The Lakota Animal Care Project has established a strategic partnership with the non-profit Native American Veterinary Services (NAVS) which will now come to the Reservation every year to do spay/neuter clinics for dogs and cats, and will offer training for Lakota Animal Care Givers during their visits. Until last year only one group, the Humane Society of the United States, came to the Reservation to do spay/neuters, but this group was only able to spend 5 days a year on the Reservation. Although this helps and is much appreciated by the people, the limited number of animals that can be fixed in this short period of time does not have an impact on the population. Our ongoing spay/neuter program together with the regular visits of NAVS will have a significant impact on the population of dogs and cats on the Reservation.
The Foster Home and Adoption Program
Families sometimes ask us to help find new homes for animals they no longer want. A network of foster homes, both on and off the Reservation, is being established to temporarily house animals that are in need of shelter and care until such a time as they can be adopted. We try to help families find permanent new loving homes for animals they no longer want.
The Enhancing Awareness and Compassion Program
This program includes two components:
1) The highly innovative and popular Sunka Scouts Program (Sunka pronounced shunka in English) means dog in the Lakota language provides a boy/girl scout-like experience for Reservation youth ages 7 to 13 focused on enhancing the awareness and compassion for animals.
Sunka Scouts helping the Lakota Animal Care Givers
2) The Reading to Animals program involves Lakota Animal Care Givers bringing animals to Reservation schools where students practice reading by reading to animals, thus building their bond with these animals in a low pressure learning environment. Lakota Animal Care Mascots (trained pet facilitators) visit classrooms to promote literacy, offer the opportunity for children to develop interest and compassion for animals, and give children the opportunity to read in a non-judgmental atmosphere. It's a lot of fun for the children and for the animals, and studies show that reading significantly improves while compassion for animals is developed.
Students at Wounded Knee school read to a dog