all-volunteer effort to treat mange in dogs and to strive for a healthier
relationship between people and their pets on the Reservation was begun in 2002
in the community of Manderson. The effort lasted two summers. The approach was
field-tested, and lessons learned from that experience were applied in the
design of the present project. That effort served as the precursor to the
Lakota Animal Care Project, and is described in some detail belows. The photos
seen on this website are from that effort.
The Volunteer Mange Treatment Effort, a Positive Experience to Learn From:
In an attempt to enhance animal welfare on the Reservation, and to seek greater and renewed respect for animals, a very small all-volunteer mange treatment effort for dogs was begun in 2002. This was an informal effort for which there was no funding, and which focused on involving community volunteers. Although mange is indeed a serious problem that requires much attention, the organizer of the effort, Virginia Ravndal, a wildlife ecologist who had lived on the Reservation and seen great animal suffering, chose to focus on mange for strategic purposes. She reasoned that mange, being a common problem with serious consequences, but also one that is relatively easy to treat (and with highly noticeable and quick results), could be used as an effective outreach to involve people in the care of their pets. Mange treatment would represent an initial first step in a long-term multi-faceted program to achieve improved animal welfare, while at the same time contributing to better human health and wellbeing.
"Maxine" looking great after third treatment for mange
Before beginning the effort, meetings were held with the Animal Control Division of CHR to explain the idea, elicit their moral support, and determine how best to collaborate. A positive response was obtained from CHR, who not only accompanied the volunteers on several site visits to observe and advise, but also following this, regularly contacted the volunteers to let them know of animals who were in need (for example those hit by cars who suffered broken backs and who required transport to a veterinarian) and whom CHR was not able to attend to due to severe staff and other constraints.
More than 250 mange treatments were administered over two seasons. Visits to homes to do the mange treatment entailed informative conversations about pet care. A purposeful attempt was made to ensure that mange treatments were happy occasions that involved as many family members as possible. Volunteers went door to door in the communities of Manderson and Wounded Knee on the Reservation, and some of the outlying areas, offering free mange treatment. The oral medication (Ivermectin) was donated, and a Veterinarian provided veterinary advice on its administration. A highly participatory approach was adopted. "Before" and "after" photos were taken of the animals treated and these were shared with families (often to their amusement and delight). The animal's first name was followed by the family name at the bottom of each photo (e.g. Low Rider Brave Heart) a subtle message that this animal is a member of the family. The condition of animals treated was monitored and recorded. Water bowls for dogs were provided, along with colorful markers for kids to decorate them. The treatments were given in such a positive atmosphere that dogs seemed to enjoy the experience, as did their human families. After the initial visits, dogs familiar with the effort would often follow the volunteers around the housing area. This always elicited laughter, and those people who may have been skeptical at first, after seeing how enthusiastic the neighbors and neighboring dogs were, came aboard and even volunteered occasionally themselves.
"Little Animo", a broken back but unbroken spirit. Run over by a car, Volunteer Animal Care Givers helped ensure his last days were comfortable.
The approach to the all-volunteer mange treatment effort is relevant to achieving the objective of the Lakota Animal Care Project and to ensuring the sustainability of its outcomes. It is a participatory and positive approach, involving many family and community members. This already field-tested approach will be adopted by the Animal Care Givers in the Lakota Animal Care Project.