FROM ROBERT JUMPER
A pen editor
As a tribe, we continue to struggle with pet care. We love them individually. Most of the responses we get when we ask about the public’s thoughts are positive when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of animals at the qualla border. People are very vocal in their desire for stray animals to be given opportunities to live and shelter, including Cherokee animal control. We all want to do what’s right for the animals. We just don’t know how to move.
Most communities have animal welfare. The old-fashioned, unsexy word for it when I lived in Jackson County was “the dog pound”. It is you who will call you when you see a stray lurking in your neighborhood. As our animal welfare officer has told us several times, one of his biggest concerns is that many pet owners do not care about neutering and neutering their animals, partly because of the cost of it. The price can range from $ 60 to nearly $ 200 if there are no complications. Most of the puppies (the cat population sees even more prevalence due to a lack of precautionary measures) that go into households are not thoroughbred. They are mutts that cost little or nothing to own, so most owners don’t think about the investment of time, money, and love it takes to care for a puppy or kitten. Some don’t even think about the life cycles of these animals; how long will they live; how big they get; how much they will eat; how much care is required; how much exercise they need; and more.
Animal Control in Cherokee does an excellent job within the parameters set by our government. You have been reading the story of a pound puppy for the past few months who became an NRE service officer because Cherokee Animal Control saw the potential in the dog and contacted a heartfelt officer who spent his time and patience with the dog to work his training and recognize the great potential for the common good that could be realized if this dog could be trained for police work. And the combination of the animal control officer’s care and the dedication of the NRE officer has produced more than one exemplary canine officer who has served right here on the Qualla border.
The stray population on the border remains out of control because we continue to ignore the main concern. Unwanted pets are released into strays and even wanted, unfocused dogs and cats are allowed to roam free and mate uncontrollably. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize that overpopulation is forcing Animal Control (not just in Cherokee but wherever it is overpopulated) to make some tough decisions. If they cannot find a home for them and cannot release them back into the community, they are left with very few and heartbreaking choices.
And the responsibility for overpopulation does not lie with the government. It is pet owners who drop the ball and doom pets to an early end or fate worse than death. If you’ve ever seen any of the ASPCA messages on television, you know the pain and suffering animals endure through humanity.
But we are not just any people. We are the captains. We lay claim to an inheritance honoring the Creator’s creation. We as a people love nature like few other ethnic groups in the world. And we are especially fond of animals and even inscribe them in some of our most cherished and revered cultural histories. If anyone has the burden of treating animals with respect and honor, it is us. We have no excuse that overpopulation in our community is a cause for concern. But here we are.
Cherokee Animal Control is doing what it can, using the resources it has, to contain the problem. They are not an animal rescue. You are an arm of the government with a purpose. You are good people. Cherokee people, given an incredibly difficult responsibility. If you have a moment, go to municode.com and check out the Animal Control Ordinance. You don’t have a small job.
In most of the communities around us, it has been community members like you and I who have been active in promoting and caring for lost, unwanted, and stray animals. Common people with and unusual love for pets, be it their own or uninhabited ones. Grassroots organizations turning homes into shelters and volunteer hours, donating thousands of dollars to help step in as much as possible in the challenge of overpopulation. They are the ones you see in the ASPCA videos rescuing the beaten, starved and lost pets and taking them to places where their health can be renewed and they can be housed in loving homes. There is only so much that the government can do in this regard. Our animal control can have the biggest hearts in the world and still not have enough hands and resources to fix the problem. It’s really up to each of us.
The following is taken from a story called “Someone Else’s Trash: Rez Dogs Saved and Lost” by Kathleen Stachowski: “From tragic to cheering in eight short words: ‘Puppies who have to die reunited in the trash can.’ The headline pulls you into the story – you already know it ends well, but nonetheless you have to face the fact that during a cold winter in Montana, someone callously ravaged a box of 10 newborns Babies – some hadn’t opened their eyes yet – were rescued by RezQ Dogs, a volunteer rescue operation that worked to help the unwanted and abandoned dogs from the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy Indian reservations in northern Montana. Tiny Tails K-9 Rescue stepped in to help and the rest is a happy story.
“A little over a year after they were rescued, eight of the 10 dogs that have now been adopted were reunited, a joyous occasion documented in an Associated Press article that recently appeared in our local western Montana newspaper. “I love your story,” one of the adoptive parents told the reporter. “I think it’s great that we can now be part of their story. These pups were someone else’s trash and they are a treasure to us. “
I’m not going to go into what kind of heart it takes to leave newborn pups behind in Montana in winter other than to say that this is not the heart of our ancestors. You will not find any record of our elders that degrades life so much. Yet this type of abuse is all too common. And this type of tragedy is so easy to contain with a little education and prevention.
We all say that we care and that we want to do something. When the opportunity presents itself to change the way we deal with unwanted and stray animal populations on the qualla border, will we roll up our sleeves and get to work? Will you and I be at the forefront of a real shelter effort? Are you the one the animals are waiting for?