Deaths underscore that Native American lands are no more an appropriate venue for dumping dangerous dogs than “crazy cat ladies” are for dumping kittens
SPIRIT LAKE, North Dakota; MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT, Iowa; TELLICO VILLAGE, Tennessee––Native Americans were the victims of two fatal dog attacks in two days on March 27 and March 28, 2022, on the Spirit Lake Reservation in North Dakota and the Meskwaki Settlement in Iowa, respectively.
The only identified fatality in the vicinity of a third fatal dog attack in four days, occurring in Tellico Village, Tennessee on the evening of March 30, 2022, was a Cherokee tribe member who died in the nearest hospital less than two hours after the dog attack was reported to police, but ANIMALS 24-7 established after extensive investigation that she was not the victim and not involved.
The Tellico Village fatality did, however, exemplify another trend in dog attack fatalities, which ANIMALS 24-7 will explore as soon as the identity of the victim is officially confirmed.
Fatally mauled two days after 6th birthday
Francis “Ahhgoo” Cavanaugh, nicknamed by his parents, Fallon and Keith Greywater Sr., four older brothers, and a sister, was killed just two days after his sixth birthday.
“From the day he was brought home from the hospital he grew up on the Spirit Lake Reservation in the development known as Walking Eagle Circle,” posted his parents in an obituary statement. “That’s where he did not always have permission, yet still loved to explore around his home. He loved most animals he came into contact with, his utmost favorites being his canine buddies.
“Much to his parents’ dismay, he would always sneak our dog food and even regular food to feed dogs who would come around. This made it especially hard for his parents to let him be outdoors, because it was the one thing, other than starting school this year, he loved to do.”
Reported Matt Henson of WDAY-TV, “The FBI is investigating the death of a 6-year-old boy on the Spirit Lake Reservation.
“Sources close to the investigation confirmed the boy was mauled to death by at least one dog at a housing development next to the old social services complex off Highway 57 in Fort Totten,” Henson said.
“The FBI declined to release any other details as they try to piece together exactly what happened. Those findings would then go to federal prosecutors, including if the owner of the dog is identified.”
The FBI is involved because Native American reservations are under federal jurisdiction.
“It’s not just residents causing the problem”
Tribal Chairman Douglas Yankton told Henson that in 2021 the one animal control officer serving the Spirit Lake Reservation impounded more than 700 dogs.
“The dogs are then fixed, vaccinated, and rehomed,” Henson narrated.
“Tribal leaders said it’s not just residents of the reservation causing the problem. They’ve had numerous issues with people bringing unwanted dogs onto the reservation and abandoning them,” Henson added
“Yankton noted,” Henson continued, that “the reservation has several regulations on the books, including the banning of certain breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers,” but the regulations are ineffective.
Outsiders dump dogs
This is in part because non-tribal members often dump pit bulls, Rottweilers, and other dangerous dogs on the reservation, rather than either take them to animal shelters where they might be euthanized, or pay for a veterinarian to perform euthanasia.
The tendency of no-kill advocates to dump dangerous dogs on Native American land in the hope that the residents will feed them has become the canine version of dumping unwanted litters of kittens on the local “crazy cat lady.”
But while dumping kittens on “crazy cat ladies” chiefly causes the deaths of the kittens in hoarding situations, dumping dangerous dogs on Native American land has contributed to at least thirteen U.S. dog attack fatalities since 2010.
Chaille Simone Morgan
That includes the March 28, 2022 mauling death of Chaille Simone Morgan, 27, on the Meskwaki Nation Settlement in Tama County, Iowa.
The 8,200-acre Meskwaki Nation Settlement is not a federally recognized reservation, though the Meskwaki are a federally recognized tribe, because instead of acquiring the land by treaty, the Meskwaki bought it outright in 1857.
Reported KWWL television, an NBC affiliate in Waterloo, Iowa, “Tribal Police say she was attacked by a large pack of dogs in the area of Springs Road, which is on the settlement,” about a mile from the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel.
“Unknown where the packs came from”
“All dogs involved have been euthanized, but it is still unknown where the packs came from,” KWWL continued. “Meskwaki Nation police say that the dogs were mixed breeds and none of the dogs were pit bulls.”
Posted a friend of Chaille Simone Morgan, Travis Mullen, to social media, “I’m going to miss this sweet, innocent soul. We jokingly called each other Casino Rat and School Rat, because she was always at the casino and I always at the school.”
While many others posted messages focusing on condolences, Chaille Simone Morgan’s cousin Morgan Bear addressed the causes of her death.
Morgan Bear speaks
“Watching dogs multiply due to not being fixed, dogs having to share food and fight over it, [with] little human interaction, that’s where you create mean dogs,” Morgan Bear wrote.
“It’s all funnies and laughs with ‘sett dogs,’” short for “settlement dogs,” Morgan Bear continued, “but seeing the way some of these dogs walk around with mange, bones showing, no collars, etc., is awful. What’s more awful is the little concern when it comes to dogs and how they multiply.”
Emphasized Morgan Bear, “I never wanted something to change so bad, dog ordinances, breed restrictions, how many dogs one can have, etc.
“A beautiful and lovable soul was taken due to someone else’s irresponsible ownership of their dogs, and it’s not something small, it’s not another dog, it’s a human being.
“People can turn a blind eye to dogs being ripped apart by other dogs,” Morgan Bear finished. “But this, this should not have happened, ever.”
35 times the dog attack death rate for the rest of the U.S.
The dog attack deaths of Francis “Ahhgoo” Cavanaugh and Chaille Simone Morgan kept the death rate from dog attacks on Native American land at approximately 35 times the death rate for the rest of the United States.
Their deaths followed the similar pack attack deaths of Lyssa Rose Upshaw, 13, on the Navajo Nation in Arizona in May 2021, and Duke Little Whirlwind, 58, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana in December 2021.
“There is no question that a perceived sympathy/empathy toward animals leads to dumping dogs and even horses and other animals on reservations,” offered Spay FIRST founder Ruth Steinberger, who from 2003 to 2018 coordinated a high-volume spay/neuter project on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
“One more example of prejudice leading to wrongdoing”
“This is one more example of preconception, or prejudice, leading to wrongdoing against a community,” Steinberger said.
“If too many dogs are a problem in non-Indian communities, it stands to reason that too many dogs would be a problem on tribal lands as well. If this was the result of abandoned dogs, and not local dogs that had litters resulting in packs, then these maulings were examples of the impact of racism.
“Planning for the program at Rosebud started in late 2002,” Steinberger noted. “Our program was originally invited by the tribal council. The overall idea behind the invite was that the relationship between tribal people and their animals was one of stewardship, and that stewardship existed long before white people were talking about forming humane societies.
“In fact, a dog or horse at the turn of the 20th century generally fared far better with tribal people than with Europeans or white settlers in the U.S.
“A new tool to support an old relationship”
“Spay/neuter was pretty much a new tool to support an old relationship,” Steinberger explained. “Sadly, abandoning animals on a reservation is the ultimate exploitation of that relationship. The idea of abandoning dogs with the hope that somehow things will go right defies all logic, not to mention compassion.
“By 2005, the change in the number of roaming dogs [at Rosebud] was visible and the two main stores that sold large bags of dog food noted that the sales of dog food had gone up––one estimated by 25%––as the number of dogs declined. So we knew that people did care, if they were able to afford to do so. By 2018 our program had provided just over 8,000 surgeries, plus countless other services.
Big groups have not stepped up
“We had ample data to show the impact of our work,” Steinberger said. “Yet no large animal welfare organization has devoted major funding to support tribes in the development and maintenance of animal welfare programs based on the premises that we learned at Rosebud, which involved the use of targeted timing––spring, summer and fall––of high volume spay/neuter services in order to make sure that all communities could get all animals spay/neutered and vaccinated.
“In many communities with roaming dogs,” Steinberger observed, “poverty, a lack of infrastructure, and remoteness make surgical spay/neuter a difficult-to-impossible option.
“For that reason, Spay FIRST! turned to the development of a science based, non-surgical solution,” now the focus of the organization.
“Tragedies happen for people and for dogs, and other animals as well, when there are too many dogs,” Steinberger finished.