Frequently Asked Questions
For anyone who is new to SAVE's campaign or who wishes to support the cause, you may have several questions about our group, why we exist, what we do, etc. We want you to be well informed.
Start with these FAQs, and if you still have questions, please contact us!
What is SAVE?
Stop Animal ViolencE (SAVE) is a group of volunteers advocating for the welfare of the pack horses and mules in the Havasupai region of the Grand Canyon. In February of 2016, they came together out of compassion to help improve the lives of these animals by calling for the cessation of violence against them, and the adoption of a standard of care for them. Not a 501(c)(3), SAVE hopes to be a temporary organization that will dissolve when the conditions for the animals consistently improve.
The Havasupai reservation is a sovereign nation, so what can be done about the abuse?
The pack horses and mules are located on tribal land. While it is primarily up to the tribal council to create and enforce standards for the animals, as well as to hold offenders accountable, that is simply not happening. Enforcement then becomes a federal issue for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), who have jurisdiction in Supai. In April 2016, SAVE was instrumental in aiding in the first animal cruelty arrest and prosecution on tribal land. There have been no prosecutions related to animal cruelty since then. Tourists need to keep sending reports of abuse they witness to the BIA contacts.
Why is the neglect and abuse still happening to some of the pack animals?
Testimony of cruelty toward the pack animals on the Havasupai reservation has been documented for more than 40 years. Myriad factors have contributed to this history of chronic abuse:
- Substance abuse by certain packers that leads to violent behavior against their animals
- Failure of the tribal council to address the abuse with enforced standards of care and prosecution of the abusers
- Obstruction from the tribal council and denial of third-party assistance in the form of vet/farrier care, equipment and food donations, and education
- The isolated location of Supai, which has kept this "secret" largely out of view for public scrutiny, which in turn has led to a general lack of awareness with tourists, the media, other advocacy groups, and beyond
- The misconception that it is normal or expected for "working animals" to appear in degraded conditions
- Tourists who do not want the mistreatment of the pack animals to detract from their vacation experience
- Lack of consistent public pressure on the tribe, outfitters and federal agents to intervene
- Complicit behavior on the part of the outfitters who contract pack animals
- Complicit behavior (from ignorance or apathy) on the part of tourists who use pack animal service
- Misinformation and untruths told by outfitters to assure tourists that they do not use abused animals
Has SAVE attempted to work with the Havasupai Tribal Council directly to resolve this?
Many individuals have - some many times, and some for months and years prior to joining this group. We have not yet had a response from the Council to our requests for a conversation on this issue. Read SAVE's Open Letter to the Tribal Council (March 2016)
What are SAVE's primary goals?
- The provision of sufficient food, water, shelter/shade, and rest for the pack animals in the village and at Hualapai Hilltop.
- The cessation of beating, striking, kicking, shooting, starving and torture of pack animals.
- The implementation and strict enforcement of this recommended minimum standard of care, or to a similar standard of care that is formulated by equine veterinarians who are not connected to the Tribe.
- The accountability and prosecution of offenders, including outfitters, who continue to be complicit in the neglect, cruelty and abuse by using these animals as part of their business operations.
What has SAVE accomplished so far?
- We have helped rescue five badly abused and "tortured" (the word used by Lt. Randy Servis, Arizona Department of Agriculture) horses resulting in the first animal cruelty arrest and prosecution on tribal land.
- We have successfully led a public awareness campaign in the media, leading to countless news stories and ultimately educating thousands of people on the pack animal abuse in Supai.
- We have amassed and documented many eyewitness accounts of animal abuse and have a process for reporting the abuse to the federal government. See our report.
- We have aided in exposing many outfitters using - or being complicit in using - abused animals. Some, like REI, who have responded by no longer offering trips there altogether.
- We launched an online petition in April 2016 to help raise awareness.
How are the outfitters who bring guests to Havasu Falls contributing to the abuse?
Outfitters may make their packing arrangements through Charlie Chamberlain's family-run business. That work is frequently sub-contracted out to individual wranglers (tribe members), who show up with their animals after the trip has left Hualapai Hilltop to hike down with the guide(s). No one from the company is present to inspect the animals' condition, find out who they belong to, or verify much weight is packed on their backs. Outfitters may also make their arrangements through the Tribal Tourism Office, in which the same process takes place. This begs the question, Does Charlie Chamberlain have enough pack animals to accommodate all of these companies? The answer is no. Additionally, his animals pack the U.S. mail down to the canyon daily. Again, if no representative is present when gear is packed, how can they make the claims they make?
For a list of outfitters who are currently offering pack animal service at Supai, please refer to this list and share it with anyone who plans to travel to Havasu Falls. SAVE encourages everyone to pack their own weight in and out of the canyon, or to use the helicopter service for transport if needed.
Can I make a donation for the animals?
At this time the only known method for making a monetary or in-kind donation on behalf of the pack animals is via a donation agreement created by the Tribal Council. SAVE feels this form, with its many conditions - particularly regarding the potential for donors to be sued by the Tribe if it is perceived they are breaking the confidentiality agreement - is too prohibitive to be helpful. If you agree, let the Tribal Council know via the contact information below. The animals cannot be helped if the Tribe won't let them be.
- Tribal Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Council Chairman, Don Watahomigie: email@example.com
- Vice Chairman: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tribal Secretary: email@example.com | 928 448 2731
Is SAVE trying to "shut down" the Havasupai region of the Grand Canyon?
Absolutely not. Our hope is that by improving the lives of animals, the peaceful, non-violent people living there will flourish. We know that some tribal members there quietly support our efforts. Perhaps they, too, are weary of living in fear of the same violent people who neglect, abuse and torture animals. People who treat defenseless animals that way are typically not kind to humans either. There are some wonderful people and responsible packers in this area of the canyon. We hope that this effort will eliminate the violent criminals and ultimately make life, and the economy, better for those who use responsible and peaceful business practices.