Young Woman Working to Help Hoopa’s Animals; Studying Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis
Most young children have probably said they want to be a vet at some point, but when Elaina Albers said it, she meant it. She held tightly onto her dream throughout elementary and high school and is now working hard to achieve it at UC Davis
School of Veterinary Science. [Correction: Elaina is not yet attending the School of Veterinary Science. She is a freshman at Davis and plans to eventually attend vet school.]
She has a connection with animals and from a young age noticed that animals in Hoopa are lacking access to veterinary care and a functioning shelter.
“I love UC Davis. It was my dream college. Being here is too good to be true,” Albers said. “Davis lives up to all those years of anticipation. I feel welcomed. It quickly became home here.”
Albers—now 18, and a freshman at the no.1 ranked veterinary school in the country—anticipates Davis will be her home away from home for many years. After she completes her studies she plans to return to Hoopa to begin her veterinary practice that will double as a shelter.
As complaints about stray animals in the Hoopa Valley grow in number, various plans to address the problem are discussed informally, but none have caught enough steam to implement.
The recent closure of the only animal shelter accessible for stray dogs and cats from the Hoopa Reservation further complicates solutions and many agree that resources need to be identified and allocated to address the problem.
Although Albers’ higher education journey has just begun, she plans to return to Hoopa during summer and winter breaks to hold events and fundraisers to help advance her goal of creating an animal shelter, veterinary practice and most of all, healthier and happier relationships amongst people and their pets.
“There’s so much potential,” she said. “Many of these animals could become service dogs, guard dogs, therapy cats and more. They can go a step above being just a pet. These animals will become family.”
The animal problem in Hoopa is nothing new. 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 persons and property within the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation.”
More than a decade later the problem persists. With limited resources and no available shelter or infrastructure, the law goes largely unenforced.
In August, the Two Rivers Tribune queried the community about Hoopa’s animal problem and received more than one hundred responses detailing animal abuse, neglect and out-of-control breeding.
Elaina recognized the problem when she was very young. She found her first pet “Chug Chug” in a cardboard box marked “Free Puppies” outside of the former grocery store in Hoopa.
“He was a mutt. A big dog that was a German shepherd and husky mix,” Albers said. “I was very lucky that my mom, Mildred, has always been there to help me and support my love for animals. She was so open to let me live my life surrounded by animals. She made it easier to have the experience.”
Albers has had many animals—dogs, cats, birds—all of them rescues or strays. One of her cats, Catniss, was allowed to accompany her to Davis.
“She’s my roommate right now,” she said. “Believe it or not, she picked out her own name. The movie Hunger Games was playing on the TV a lot and she seemed to be interested when Catniss was on the screen. She was found in an old car and I agreed to take her.”
Albers said focusing on her goal of attending UC Davis made it easier to overcome childhood obstacles. And, her twin brother Shannon, who grew up alongside her and believes in her dream as much as she does.
“Overcoming certain obstacles can be difficult, but keeping my focus on my education and future really helped. I also have a lot of people who support me and that’s a really big help,” she said.
There is an active Gofundme campaign set up to help Albers cover her dorm rent for the remainder of this semester.
“Currently I am struggling to find resources to fund my housing. I live in the dorms, however my financial aid does not cover the full cost which is jeopardizing my opportunity to stay,” Albers wrote on her Gofundme page.
So far she has raised $1,215 of her $1,850 goal and the remainder of her dorm rent is due by January 5, 2018. If unpaid, she will be dropped from her classes.
Albers is hesitant to ask for donations saying community support is more valuable to her. I want people to know that I’m still here, trying.
“The path to my career is expensive, but I want people to know that my practice will not be about money,” Albers said. “It will be about the animals and their families. Money struggles shouldn’t prevent families from having happy and healthy pets.”
Note: This article was originally published through the Two Rivers Tribune.