Many animals on the Pine Ridge Reservation suffer from inadequate care. Many die prematurely from starvation, exposure, treatable (but untreated) diseases, being hit by cars, and, in recent years, increased violence directed at them. Severe malnutrition and mange are prevalent.
One of the many strays
Why The Problem Exists
Poverty & Inadequate Resources
Veterinary services are unaffordable to most Pine Ridge residents, 70% of whom live below the federal poverty level. Even if such services were affordable, there are no veterinarians, no veterinary technicians, and only one person employed in basic animal health care (the Animal Control Officer) on this vast Reservation (approximately the size of Connecticut). There are no animal clinics, there is not enough medicine, and there is very little equipment to attend to the needs of animals.
Lack of Awareness
There is a general lack of awareness regarding how to care for pets. Some people believe that because they are animals they should be able to fend for themselves. Others believe that, given limited resources, these must be used exclusively for the benefit of people, not for animals. There is no organized effort to enhance awareness of animal needs through education, or to promote humane animal treatment. Without this awareness and understanding, even adequate health services will not suffice to enhance animal wellbeing.
"Bud" with porcupine quills
High Percentage of Un-Neutered Animals
Most dogs and cats on the Reservation are not neutered. There is a lack of awareness regarding the benefits of neutering pets. In some cases, there is disagreement regarding the benefit of doing so. Because of the violence on the Reservation, some people prefer to keep male dogs un-neutered as they believe they are better guard dogs. For children who don't have the benefit of toys, new puppies and kittens serve to fill this void. The high number of un-neutered dogs leads to a variety of problems for both people and animals. Unwanted dogs end up as strays, and packs of roaming dogs are formed. This causes health and safety problems for people, dogs, and other animals; both domestic and wild.
Constant Supply of New Puppies and Kittens
Despite the high premature mortality rate of dogs and cats (most puppies and kittens don't make it to their first birthday), there is overpopulation due to both lack of neutering of Reservation pets, and because there is a constant supply of new puppies and kittens from off the Reservation.
High Rate of Alcoholism
The high alcoholism rate (87%) parallels the unemployment rate on the Reservation. Alcoholism negatively affects both people and animals dependent upon them.
Due to poverty, alcoholism, and other factors, violence is a sad reality on the Reservation. The rate of violent crime is as high as in many big cities. Studies show that people who direct violence toward other people often also direct violence toward animals, in fact, animals are often their first victims. Violence toward animals has escalated on the Reservation in recent years, with gang activities now directed at both people and animals.