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Little Dog’s Big Journey

Tiny Dog is a playful and scruffy Australian Cattle dog with an easy-going demeanor. She’s very friendly and good with kids, to name a few of the reasons why her guardians love her so much. 

But at just three years old, this sweet girl has already given birth to a handful of litters. Her guardians didn’t want her to get pregnant. However, it isn’t easy to keep this from happening since they live in a rural neighborhood on the Ute Reservation in Northeastern Utah, where access to veterinary care is extremely limited. Here the cost for spaying an animal is not only grossly overpriced, but the nearest vet clinics are either hours away or often booked to capacity for months at a time. 

“Due to the harsh conditions and a lack of animal shelters and control officers, there are hundreds of feral puppies running around the reservation at any given time,” explained Tyson Thompson, Executive Director of the Indian Housing Authority in Fort Duchesne. “

Before long, these free-roaming pups are pregnant and contribute to the animal overpopulation issue, which has troubled the Ute Reservation – the second-largest Native American Reservation in America – for years. The reservation houses nearly 3,000 Ute Tribe members and their pets, plus ten of thousands of homeless dogs and cats.  

Utah Humane first traveled to help the Ute Indian Housing Authority in March 2021. We took in 22 puppies surrendered by tribal members and set up a pet food pantry on a nearby lawn. Since our first visit, we’ve expanded our services to offer free vaccinations on-site and spay and neuter surgeries off-site on a pet retention basis. 

Our pet retention program allows individuals experiencing financial hardship to receive free or donation-based medical care without having to surrender their beloved pets. Tiny Dog is one of the dozens of tribal pets who have received support through this program. She was spayed at our facility in Murray on July 8th and returned to her family the next day.

“Currently, we’re traveling to the reservation every three weeks to host an owner surrender and vaccination event for the local community and to transport pets to our facility to be spayed or neutered,” said our Admissions & Placement Manager, Amber Henry.  “It’s a five-hour drive round trip, but there is so much value in keeping pets in their home with the people who love them; It makes the long drive worth it.” 

Our partnership with the Indian Housing Authority is in the beginning stages. But we’re working hard to collaborate with nearby neighborhoods and housing authorities and local animal control and veterinarians to develop a system of care to significantly decrease the number of free-roaming animals on the reservation and ultimately save and improve the lives of thousands of dogs and cats each year.

Tyson Thompson shared, “On behalf of my superiors and our residents, we thank Utah Humane for coming out here regularly to help us get this situation under control. Your work here has already changed things for the better, both short and long-term, and we cannot thank you enough.”

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