Veterinarians Treat 70 Horses During Trip To Supai Village

Jun 2, 2017

Pack horses hauling gear at Supai Village
Credit Carrie Allan/The Humane Society Of The United States

Pack horses are often used to haul people and their gear down the eight mile trail to Supai Village in the Grand Canyon. Recently, The Havasupai Tribe has drawn criticism for the alleged abuse and neglect of the horses, as reported by tourists and animal rights groups. Kellye Pinkleton is the Arizona State Director at the Humane Society of the United States. After hearing about the allegations, she led a group of volunteer veterinarians to the village last month to check up on the horses, and work with the tribe. Pinkleton spoke with KNAU's Aaron Granillo.

Aaron Granillo: So, Kelly. Tell us about the trip. 

Kellye Pinkleton: So, really our role and what we started doing a year ago, we began reaching out to the tribal council. And, ultimately we were able to kind of put forth several different points of a proposal of what we would like to do with local partners and others to work with the horses. Ultimately, we took in 12 of us, spent four days there, providing direct care to the horses and did education. 

Dr. Richard Fisher of Fisher Equine Dentistry examines a horse in Supai.
Credit Carrie Allan/The HSUS

What were some of the big health issues your team found in these animals? 

So, in total it was 70 horses that we saw. And, those were from independent owners for personal use as well as some of the pack animals that are a part of, kind of, the tourism industry. There were a lot of trimming of hoofs. You can imagine these are working horses. Many of them are hiking up and out of the canyon. The dentist did tooth extractions. There was also a lot of providing deworming medication, tetanus, rabies vaccinations. We even provided rabies vaccinations for some of the companion animals, the dogs in Supai, while we were there. 

One of the big issues with this village is it's so remote. There is not an on-site vet there. How do you keep this work up when you don't have a group of a dozen volunteer vets there on a regular basis?

And that is the thing I think sometimes folks don't understand. I mean the logistical issues and the lack of resources that exist really compound the problem. I mean, as you noted, there is not an on-site veterinarian. Although to be sure, and we identified many people there that understand a lot about horse care. So, we even left behind tools and things they can use. We did some one-on-one education, so when we're not down there or other groups aren't, we want to make sure that the tools and the knowledge base -- to the extent that it can be without a veterinarian -- is there. So, there were a couple tribal members, in particular, we worked with that definitely have an interest and, kind of, passion for horse care and horses. They worked with watching, kind of, what the farrier was doing. And, we provided a lot of that hands-on education to owners because that's the reality. I mean, there isn't a a vet.

And, what is next for the Humane Society? Are you going to go back to Supai for more of these types of trips?

Our hope is that we are going back in a few months, and to expand on not only the direct one-on-one, kind of, education care. But, to do some community education. And, we're encouraged by the reception that we got and the positive feedback from the tribal council. So, I think just the synergy really between the council and us doing that, I mean there's a lot more we can accomplish over time. 

KNAU contacted the Havasupai Tribal Council to comment on this story. We received a written response. The tribe says horses are a long-standing part of its culture, and aid in providing the day-to-day necessities for people living in Supai. The tribe adds that the animal’s health is important, and encourages the public to report any suspected abuse to its animal control office.