Banfield Foundation, a public charity within Mars Veterinary Health, along with IDEXX Foundation, has announced a multi-year initiative to bring financially sustainable, tribally directed preventive care and critical veterinary resources to the 20 communities that comprise the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Central South Dakota.
Working with Tribal leadership, Banfield Foundation in partnership with Sovereign Nations Veterinary, a nonprofit providing training and care to animals on Tribal Nations, is leveraging grant dollars, resources and veterinary teams to build and operate a veterinary hospital named Wamakanskan (all animal nations) Wawokiye (helping) Oti (center), which translates Helping Animal Center.
“Among Tribal Nations, access to veterinary care is often beyond reach due to financial, socioeconomic and geographic barriers that not only impact the pet but also pet owners,” said Kim Van Syoc, Executive Director, Banfield Foundation. “We are committed to helping remove barriers and bring much needed veterinary care and veterinary careers to the pets and people of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal communities.”
Wamakanskan Wawokiye Oti will be utilized to provide both small and large animal veterinary care on an economically sustainable level. Services include preventive and emergency care, spay/neuter services, injured wildlife care, Tribal buffalo herd care, as well as animal population control and Tribal regulation enforcement ensuring Tribal members and non-members have access to veterinary care for their animals.
Currently, there is an animal population of nearly 22,000 residents and 200,000 owned or community dogs and cats and 5,000 owned horses. To fill the gap in access to care, the Lakota Sioux Nation has relied on local and out-of-state partners and volunteers to provide intermittent care including ongoing support from Sovereign Nations Veterinary, who will ultimately oversee the medical operations and education programs moving forward.
“This collaborative effort will expand access to high-quality veterinary care for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation, as well as provide educational training and career opportunities for its Tribal members,” said Jay Mazelsky, IDEXX President and CEO. “Altogether, this is a holistic initiative that reflects the IDEXX Foundation’s mission to make a long-lasting, positive and economically sustainable difference for people, animals and the environment in communities around the world.”
In addition to the bricks-and-mortar clinic, this initiative is providing education opportunities that support veterinary care on the reservation including full scholarships to Tribal members who have an interest in being trained as veterinary technicians and to working at the new clinic.
Hospital renovations began in May and are slated to be completed in late June. As part of the larger Rosebud Sioux Tribe Initiative, community based spay/neuter and wellness clinics are currently underway and will take place throughout the summer leading up to the official hospital opening in September 2021. Clinics will provide free spay/neuter services and preventive care for up to 5,000 pets belonging to the members of the 20 Communities on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe reservation through Sovereign Nations Veterinary and ViDAS, a group of veterinary spay and neuter experts dedicated to providing pet sterilization to underserved areas.
“In the Lakota culture, animals are considered sacred—this requires respect for animals, manifested by providing for their health and well-being. When animals are healthy it ultimately impacts the health and spirit of the Tribal community,” said Kathleen Wooden Knife, a former six-year Tribal leader with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “I have dreamed of a clinic for many years—for a place where the Tribal communities can access affordable pet health care. Today my dream is becoming a reality. On behalf of the entire Rosebud Sioux Tribe – ‘Wopila’ – thank you.”