Tribal Programs

Confronted with a rate of dog bites that is up to five times the national average, Native American tribes increasingly engage high volume spay/neuter services to address animal overpopulation.  Programs serving communities in which free-roaming dogs are culturally a part of the fiber of the community should offer spay/neuter for free as people may be caring for free roaming dogs that are not their own.   Charging people to care for dogs that are not their own halts progress.                                                                                                                                    

Preventing litters is the only humane way to provide a safe and caring environment for the dogs and those living around them.

In all states except Alaska, the state veterinary board is recognized to not exercise authority over tribal sovereignty.

Visiting veterinary programs are part of the solution, and these programs have increased flexibility on reservations. The flexibility can spell success.

All successful remote area spay/neuter programs (tribal or non-tribal) are based on:

  • A needs assessment that reflects the number of free-roaming and/or intact animals,
  • The strength of animal control ordinances and local cooperation,
  • Other local resources including volunteer organizations to assist at clinics and with transport of pets belonging to homes without vehicles.

In any place with free-roaming animals, high-volume spay/neuter is the foundation of humane population control.  Without “enough” surgeries, and without a springtime strategy for preventing litters, the impact will be diminished. Effectiveness requires assessment and appropriate planning.

Six basic types of spay/neuter programs serve reservations. The program is critical to success.

The six basic types of visiting veterinary programs are:


  • Non-profit high volume spay/neuter services in which one or more experienced high-volume veterinarians provide M*A*S*H or mobile spay/neuter services.  This is a high impact model.
  • Training programs in which veterinary students visit a reservation in order to gain experience while also providing some benefit to reservation households.  This may not be a high impact model but may be coupled with other programs and educational efforts.
  • Vacation programs in which veterinarians travel in order to help animals during vacation breaks.  This is not a high impact model but may be coupled with other programs and educational efforts.
  • Faith based remote area services for large and small animals.  This model may be intended to help animal producers and may not be solely for animal welfare outcomes.
  • Other non-profit services that may include large and small animal services.  This model may not be intended solely for animal welfare outcomes.
  • Individual veterinarians who volunteer their time out of a personal commitment to overall good.

For more information on the above programs read more here.

If not on a federally recognized reservation each veterinarian must hold a license or have temporary licensure in the state in which they are practicing. Additionally, If not on a federally recognized reservation, students may not perform surgeries unless otherwise authorized through their curriculum.

A tribe that is developing a spay/neuter program and the coordinator of a visiting service should communicate directly in order to decide if the program “fits.”  The communication should reflect a preliminary needs assessment, and an understanding of what to expect from the host and the visiting team.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe High Volume Program 2003-2010

For more information on hosting M*A*S*H programs read more here.