November 3, 2009
A Mission of Hope and Healing: Part 1
HSUS program brings free vet care to Indian reservations
by Angela Moxley
The line began snaking through the desert even before the blazing August sun breached the horizon. It was 7 a.m., and the people of the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation were already waiting.
They weren’t clamoring to buy the latest video game console or eagerly anticipating the grand opening of a popular coffee chain. In this remote Nevada community where the residents eke out a living as farmers and ranchers—where the nearest veterinarian is an hour away, and money can’t easily be diverted from groceries to gas—the people arrived carrying make shift leashes and hearts full of hope. They were responding to a luxurious proposition from the Field Services division of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association: free vet care for their beloved pets.
At the head of the line was Delora Snapp, who’d brought five of her dogs—with six more still at home. The first had shown up on her property months before, perhaps dumped there by someone who knew of her soft spot for animals in need. Soon Mama had a litter of puppies, and then her puppies started having puppies. Before long, Snapp was looking after nearly a dozen animals, some of them born with deformities, such as Club, named for the curvature in his right front paw.
The dogs also began experiencing travails common to many of the reservation’s free-roaming pets. One returned from his wanderings with a bloody head wound, probably incurred during a fight with other dogs. Another came home with quills embedded in her skin, acquired during a tango with a porcupine. Saddened by the suffering and worried that more puppies might be on the way, Snapp came to the clinic seeking a path out of her predicament.
Within a few hours, all but one of the dogs were in the temporary care of HSVMA workers, after lead veterinarian Kate Kuzminski and staff member Tammy Rouse offered to assess those left behind at Snapp’s mobile home just down the road. “Wow, you’re a dog whisperer, ma’am,” said Kuzminski as she watched the skittish animals, who’d been dozing in the shade, nuzzle up to Snapp. “Well,” Snapp responded between gentle murmurs, “they get attention all the time—they get spoiled.”
Though the dogs weren’t socialized enough to make good adoption candidates, Snapp agreed to have them spayed and neutered. It was another small step forward in a 14-year effort to help stop the cycle of breeding and alleviate the suffering endemic to such isolated areas—one animal, one person at a time.