May 15, 2016


 Reaching UP in New Mexico

By R. Scott Nolen
Posted May 2, 2016

A team of veterinary professionals spent four days last November on the Pueblo of Laguna reservation in New Mexico providing high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter surgeries and targeted preventive veterinary care as part of Reaching UP, an AVMA program for underserved populations.

It was the third Reaching UP clinic since the AVMA Board of Directors approved the program in 2012. The two previous clinics, managed by the AVMA Animal Welfare Division and funded by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, were held at the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota (see JAVMA, Dec. 15, 2013). The Banfield Foundation provided funding to continue the program at Laguna for three Reaching UP clinics in 2016.

A former detention center on the Pueblo of Laguna reservation in New Mexico was the staging ground for Reaching UP, a high-quality, high-volume spay-neuter clinic where 125 dogs and cats owned by tribe members were neutered and provided preventive care. (Courtesy of Marilou Chanrasmi) 

November 2015 was the first time Reaching UP was invited onto the Laguna reservation, located approximately 45 miles west of Albuquerque. From Nov. 18-22, a team comprising six AVMA members, three certified veterinary technicians, and more than 40 other volunteers operating out of a previous tribal detention center were part of an effort during which 125 dogs and cats were neutered and an additional 75 pets received rabies and distemper-adenovirus-parainfluenza-parvovirus vaccinations and antiparasitics.

While pets were being seen, owners were educated about the importance of preventive care. 

Dr. Tolani Francisco, a member of the Laguna tribe and a veterinary epidemiologist with the Department of Agriculture, helped bring the clinic to the reservation. Estimates on the numbers of dogs and cats on the reservation—owned and stray—are difficult to come by. The pueblo is home to more than 7,000 people, Dr. Francisco said, and it’s not uncommon for reservation households to own as many as six pets.

“We do have a problem with some aggressive dog packs,” she added. “There may be at least five packs that roam certain parts of the 500,000- acre reservation, with each pack made up of five to six dogs.”

Dr. Marc Kramer is chief veterinarian for Project PetSnip, an organization that spays and castrates cats and dogs in the South Florida area. Dr. Kramer estimates he’s performed upward of 5,000 such surgeries since 2009. He participated in Reaching UP because he wants to save animal lives, reduce euthanasia rates in shelters, and improve the health of individual animals.

“It’s also a very gratifying feeling to see the positive effects on the communities and the pet owners themselves,” he added. For instance, the clinic is a chance to educate younger generations about the importance of neutering animals and to promote public and animal health by reducing the number of strays in the community.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Reaching UP clinics this year.