Reservation attacks outside the Far North were formerly almost unheard of
Part II of a three-part series. See also 12-pit bull attack on toddler spotlights soaring risk on reservations and Pit bulls now in the “rez dog” gene pool.
From the first documentation of reservation dog attacks until 2006 most “Indian country” dog attack fatalities and disfigurements involved sled dogs left to run at large, or chained in dog yards, and toddlers who ran out among them.
Nine of the 20 “Indian country” dog attack fatalities since 2006 have followed the traditional pattern, maintaining the average of about one per year that researchers have seen since circa 1960.
The most recent such victim, a four-year-old girl, died on June 6, 2016 after a mauling by a tethered dog at the Kvalliq community in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, Canada.
“Sadly, this is not Nunavut’s first dog attack on a child,” recalled Sarah Rogers of the Nunatsiaq News, in Iqaluit. “Another four-year-old was killed in Pangnirtung after he was attacked by sled dogs in 2010. No charges were ever laid against the dog’s owners in that case. And in Nunavik in 2014, a four-year-old girl died after being attacked by a dog in the Hudson Bay community of Puvirnituq.”
Near the remote Kaska community of Ross River, Yukon an adult victim of an apparent attack by free-roaming northern breed dogs, Shane Glada, was discovered on October 17, 2015, after a multi-day search. His remains had been partially consumed. Yukon chief coroner Kirsten Macdonald and conservation officers spent seven months determining that neither a bear nor other wildlife were involved.
South of the snowbelt
But as often as Native American children and others are killed and mauled in the Far North, eleven “Indian country” fatalities and dozens of disfiguring dog attacks have followed the distinctly different pattern exemplified by the four fatalities since 2011 on the Navajo Nation.
More than half of the post-2012 fatal and disfiguring dog attacks in “Indian country” have occurred south of the snowbelt, meaning the portion of North America that has snow on the ground for weeks or months each winter.
Most of the dogs identified after south-of-the-snowbelt “Indian country” attacks have not been of breeds used to pull sleds, nor of mixes of sled dogs with free-roaming pets or scavenging mongrels.
Three times more pit bulls than huskies involved in fatalities
Among the 100-plus dogs involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks in “Indian country” since 2006 have been 14 huskies and husky mixes, at least 50 dogs of unknown breed or mix––and 40 pit bulls plus three Rottweilers, a German shepherd, and a Belgian Malinois.
Pit bulls and Rottweilers were rarely seen among reservation dog populations until recent years, but now appear to have thoroughly infiltrated the gene pools of the free-roaming packs, exponentially increasing the frequency of maulings and fatalities.
Even more indicative of the change in pattern among “Indian country” dog attacks, at least 33 pit bulls and a Rottweiler have been involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks just since 2012.
“Indian country” residents attacked by dogs at five times the rate of other Americans
The free-roaming packs patrolling the perimeters of Native American villages, who formerly helped to protect the humans from bears, pumas, and human enemies, have themselves become the most serious animal threats to community well-being.
About 1.8 million Canadians and 5.2 million residents of the U.S. claim Native American ancestry: 2% of the combined population of both nations. But “Indian country” residents now suffer nearly 10% of the fatal and disfiguring dog attacks inflicted in the U.S. and Canada, meaning that “Indian country” residents are attacked by dogs at nearly five times the rate of other Americans and Canadians.
Attacks tripled in 10 years
Further, the numbers of fatal and disfiguring attacks occurring in “Indian country” have tripled over the past 10 years, even though the available data indicates that only one disfiguring dog attack in six occurring in “Indian country” is documented.
Thirteen Native American children and seven adults are known to have been killed by dogs since 2006. At least 11 other Native Americans suffered disfiguring injuries, many of them life-threatening, but since the ratio of disfigurements to fatalities elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada is more than six-to-one, probably another 50 or more Native Americans suffered disfiguring injuries that are not in any dog attack data base.
At least 21 Native American communities, including parts of the Navajo Nation, have breed-specific prohibitions against pit bulls, pit bull variants such as Presa Canarios, Rottweilers, and other breeds variously including Malamutes, blue heelers, boxers, chows, Dobermans, and German shepherds.
The Membertou First Nation, for instance, a Mi’kmaq band reservation headquartered on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, banned pit bulls in 2010, after an attack on an elder and her grandchild. Pit bull owners were allowed to keep their dogs, if licensed, vaccinated, and sterilized. By 2015, according to Membertou senior adviser Dan Christmas, there were no more pit bulls in the community, and had been no more dog attacks.
Pit bulls breed with traditional “rez” dogs
Elsewhere, the infusion of pit bull genetics into the free-roaming reservation dog populations has coincided with escalating numbers of high-profile pack attacks, such as the March 2015 fatal mauling of Julia Charging Whirlwind, 49, of the Lower Swift Bear community on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The free-roaming dogs who killed her were never positively identified, but at least two pit bulls were photographed in the vicinity, and many pit mixes were among the dogs rounded up by tribal authorities in the shocked days afterward.
The death of Julia Charging Whirlwind came four months after two fatal dog attacks and one nearly fatal attack within 10 days in November 2014 briefly drew national media attention to the marked surge in dog attacks in “Indian country,” and the inefficacy of the methods currently used by Native American tribes and humane societies to try to prevent them.
Flurry of attacks
The first victim in the 10-day series of dog attacks was Chukchansi tribe member Karen Shultz, 63, mauled on November 9, 2014 by six pit bulls near Coarsegold, California, on the Chukchansi Picayune Indian Reservation.
Three days later Eastern Shoshone Tribe member Deanne Lynn ‘Tyvones’ Coando, a 40-year-old mother of seven, was fatally mauled by officially unidentified dogs near Fort Washakie in the two-million-acre Wind River Indian Reservation of Wyoming.
“She was rushed to Riverton Hospital with serious injuries, hypothermia and a severe loss of blood after fellow tribe members heard her screams. Despite medics’ best efforts, she shortly died,” reported Sophie Jane Evans of Associated Press.
Pine Ridge Reservation
Six days later that, on November 18, 2014, Jayla Rodriguez, 8, was fatally mauled by dogs while sledding near her home just south of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Deputy police chief John Mousseau told media that the Pine Ridge Reservation has legislation excluding pit bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans. “Any time we come across a dog like that, law enforcement will take and destroy the dog,” Mousseau told Steve Young of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.
Yet among the free-roaming dogs photographed near the scene of the fatal attack by Chris Huber of the Rapid City Journal was at least one pit bull.
The Pine Ridge breed-specific bylaw was adopted after 5-year-old Braedon Rodriguez was mauled by two pit bulls at Sharp’s corner on July 29, 2003.
“The child survived but needed 250 stitches to his face and 15 subsequent facial surgeries,” recalled Young of the Argus-Leader.
Pickup & horse trailer
After the death of Jayla Rodrigues, reported Seth Tupper of the Rapid City Journal, “A crew hired by the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority drove a pickup and ramshackle horse trailer through town, stopping to pick up stray dogs. Three rescuers from LightShine Canine tagged along with permission,” reportedly taking possession of 800 dogs deemed fit for rescue, “and sending them along to shelters for adoption. The remaining dogs were killed and dumped at a tribal landfill.”
The Oglala Sioux response was relatively restrained compared to that of the Navajo Nation in 2009 and again in 2011.
Few clinics & shelters
Remote, scattered, and often deeply impoverished Native American communities rarely have the concentrations of human population and local tax base to support either veterinary clinics or institutional animal control agencies such as those of the Navajo Nation.
Dog population control is therefore often restricted to killing puppies at birth, especially females, and shooting older dogs who become problematic.
Since neither option appeals much to people whose cultures have historically held dogs in high regard, relatively little dog population control is done on most reservations until an attack –– historically much more often on livestock than on humans –– makes a response necessary.
This is the second of a three-part series. See also: 12-pit bull attack on toddler spotlights soaring risk on reservations and Pit bulls now in the “rez dog” gene pool.