Hoopa’s Animal Problem Still Going Strong; Greater Rural Rescue Society Closing Shelter Doors
More than 90 people responded to a recent Facebook post about the animal control problem in Hoopa sharing stories about their animals or family members being attacked, dogs being abused, starved, abandoned and sick.
Beverly Stevens said her family’s miniature weenie dog was mauled by a stray dog two years ago. The weenie dog’s veterinary care was $1,200, but she still died.
Trisha Cisneros said her cat Luna, her mom’s cat Kitters and her grandmother’s cat Milo were all killed by wandering dogs.
“Watching your beloved animal being ripped apart, screaming, and there’s nothing you can do,” Cisneros said. “It’s traumatizing at best.”
Alanna Nulph’s cat was killed by two dogs that came into her yard. They also tried to attack her dog before she fired shots, missed and scared them off. Now she sleeps with a gun next to her bed to protect her pets.
Meagen Baldy said a pack of four dogs killed her dad’s dog, her flock of chickens and nearly killed her dog.
“The only thing we could do was shell out money to build a better fence,” Baldy said. “We need a shelter and our ordinance to make people license their animals. This is a growing issue. What happens when the same pack attacks a child?”
Dawn Blake, a wildlife biologist with the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Forestry Department believes there are feral dogs terrorizing wildlife in the forest. Fishers and foxes have turned up dead seemingly from dog attacks.
Misty Masten said her former neighbor abandoned several dogs next door to her home and she worries about what will be done before the dogs starve.
Vicki McCulley, a resident of Weitchpec, said the problem isn’t just in Hoopa, it’s downriver too.
“The sad thing is, because humans don’t take care of them, they instinctively go in to pack/survival mode. The County won’t do anything. Something needs to be done.”
Just one week ago, Tori Attebery lost her family’s Pomeranian to a dog attack near Tish Tang Road.
“Our kids are traumatized!” she said.
What’s the problem?
Too many animals are not being cared for. There’s limited access to veterinary care. There’s a lack of spaying and neutering and no infrastructure to address the problem.
More than a decade ago, in 2006, at the urging of local animal rescuers, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council passed a thoroughly written animal control ordinance, Title 68. The 22-page law lays out in detail how animal control will be addressed on the reservation. The first page declares that “there is a lack of control over the animal populations within the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation and this lack of control directly affects the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s authority and responsibility to protect persona and property within the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.”
The ordinance, which most agree is a good law, was the first step at addressing the problem. But it fell flat because little to no infrastructure was provided to enforce it. Much of the burden fall on Hoopa Valley Tribal Police, the department charged with enforcing the ordinance and given the authority to contract or operate an animal shelter, hire animal control officers, investigate complaints, issue citations and kill animals found in violations of the law.
With limited resources and no available shelter, they are left with few options. The last resort has become the only solution—shoot the offending animals.
Tribal police officers try to mediate animal related issues, but have few options when deciding how to take action. They can write citations, but many of the offending animals have no owners to hold responsible. And the one shelter available to Hoopa residents is closing its doors by the end October.
Denise George and Kathy Hofacker, along with Hofacker’s grandson Lisandro, have kept the Greater Rural Rescue Society’s shelter up and running despite a delinquent loan, inadequate facilities and limited support.
“There’s a lady in Chico who faithfully donates a bag of dog food and a bag of cat food every month,” George said. “And there’s another lady from Willow Creek who donates food.”
George and Hofacker are currently raffling jewelry and artwork to help raise money for the shelter’s final expenses—food for the next two months, cat litter and cleanup.
“We have eight dogs and 13 cats left that we have to find homes for,” George said. “We’re not taking any more animals. We just can’t.”
George has taken several of the rescued animals home with her and so has Hofacker, but they can’t take them all.
As Hofacker is doing her daily chores at the shelter, exercising the dogs and mopping the floor, she tells a story about “Survivor” a male dog, a mutt, who was brought to the shelter with a cat collar embedded in his neck. The collar was placed on his neck as a puppy and never removed. He grew and the pressure from the collar caused his eye to rupture. After a vet removed the collar and helped him back to life, Hofacker said she spent six months with him to gentle him and earn his trust.
“He is such a sweet dog,” she said. “He doesn’t trust men much, but he really is a sweetie.”
Such is the story of hundreds of animals who have passed through the GRRS shelter—puppies left for dead, starved dogs infested with mange or fleas, week-old kittens on the brink of death. They’ve even found abandoned animals in the junk cars near the shelter.
As far as they know, there is no data that quantifies the problem in Hoopa, but they know it’s real and it’s big.
Pervious spay and neuter clinics were successful, however the most recent clinic provided by the Rural Area Veterinarian Society (RAVS) was for vaccinations only and the Neuter Scooter, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic ran by Dr. Tess Peevey, needs an adequate facility before providing more clinics in Hoopa.
Kim Class is the founder and co-manager of the Companion Animal Foundation. It’s a small shelter that focuses on assisting low-income families with spay and neuter vouchers.
Class is a veteran technician and is also fundraising to assemble a mobile unit that can be used to visit communities in outlying areas, like Hoopa, Weitchpec, Pecwan and Orleans.
Class has spent many hours in the Hoopa area assisting with previous spay and neuter clinics and the retrieval of rabid animals. She’s taken several animals from Hoopa to her shelter in Sunny Brae.
Over the past 15 years, her foundation has assisted with about $7,000 in spay and neuter assistance and has helped about 18,000 animals. She said when she first started they euthanized about 4,000-6,000 animals each year. Last year they euthanized about 88. She believes the positive trend is due to their commitment to spaying and neutering.
Her foundation raises money by holding community benefits, such as the “Spay-getti and No Balls” vegetarian dinner, and writing grants. They recently reached a fundraising milestone tallying about $60,000 of the $120,000 they need to put their mobile unit in action.
“Healthy pets are part of the healthy community,” Class said. “This work is exhausting and heart breaking, but can be very rewarding.”
Hoopa resident Carleana Estrada has interned at the Companion Animal Foundation and is working toward becoming a vet tech herself.
“I want to put my education back into the community,” Estrada said. “I hate seeing animals go through this crap.”
Estrada has rescued several animals and lost some too. She works closely with Class’ foundation to find homes for abandoned or ill animals.
Estrada told a story about a stray pit bull. He had mange and obviously feral. He came to her yard several times and would dig in garbage. He eventually killed two of her cats and then later disappeared never to be seen again.
“There’s no reason to breed animals. There’s no reason to not get your animal fixed,” Estrada said. “Without being spayed or neutered dogs easily go into pack mentality. They can be so nice, but the minute they get with five other dogs, they get aggressive.”
Estrada wants to get more involved at the local level, but she says the movement lacks community involvement.
George and Hofacker agree.
“We’re burned out,” George said sounding discouraged about losing the shelter and her and Hofacker working seven days a week with little help. “If the tribe builds a shelter right, it wouldn’t be that much work.”
Note: This article was originally published through the Two Rivers Tribune on August 22, 2017.