The Solutions

Vital Changes and Programs Needed for Pack Animal Use and Welfare  

  1. All pack animals must be freeze-branded with an individual number for reliable identification.
  2. Every pack animal must be provided adequate nutrition and appropriate medical care by its owner, based on physical criteria set by American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP).
  3. To be working, pack animals must be in a healthy and uninjured condition as based on physical criteria set by AAEP and/or by other reputable pack animal operations, such as Xanterra, for example, working pack animals within Grand Canyon National Park.
  4. An appropriate government or reliable Tribal inspector must be on hand to inspect each pack animal daily in the village of Supai a) prior to any pack or riding animal heading up to Hualapai Hilltop, b) up any other route out of Supai, or c) down to the Havasu Falls Campground. The animals, identified by their freeze brands, should then be cleared for use if healthy, or instead  banned from use if their physical condition does not meet work criteria set by AAEP.
  5. A second appropriate government or reliable Tribal inspector must clear each pack animal once it reaches Hualapai Hilltop or any other exit canyon route from Supai for compliance that each specific animal, identified by its freeze brand number, was cleared as fit for duty by the inspector in Supai that day. Working pack animals that arrive at Hualapai Hilltop and were banned from use by the inspector in Supai must be confiscated from the owner or user. Other additional penalties might apply, such as fines, loss of pack permit, etc.
  6. All pack animals should be walked along the canyon trail to and from Supai, NOT forced or allowed to run.
  7. Hualapai Hilltop must be provided with the following for all pack animals that arrive there:
         a. Sufficient water (and sufficient time spent at the Hilltop in which to water)
         b. Sufficient feed (and sufficient time spent at the Hilltop in which to feed)
         c. Sufficient shade (this require building ramadas, at the least)
         d. Corral(s) of ample size to allow all pack animals to move freely while resting and not working,     instead of being tethered to a rail or tree. 
  8. A schedule of 2-3 days off for each pack animal per week must be instituted as a standard operating procedure such that pack animals are not overworked. The government or Tribal inspector must have in his or her possession a copy of this schedule to ensure compliance.
  9. Overworked or chronically injured horses, or horses too old to continue working as pack animals, must be retired to a sanctuary, NOT worked to death on the trail, sold to a slaughterhouse, abandoned in the village, etc.
  10. Wranglers and/or pack animal wranglers must acquire and use appropriate tack on all pack animals such that the animals' spines, withers, hips, legs, etc. are not abraded, bruised, or otherwise injured while working or resting.
  11. Sufficient penalties must be exerted upon those persons who circumvent and violate the above criteria set for the welfare of pack animals, being prosecuted under the statutes currently existing for abuse and/or neglect under Arizona and Federal Laws.
  12. Educational programs for all handlers and wranglers of pack animals must be instituted as soon as possible in several areas:
    • How to care for pack animals by providing appropriate nutritional quality and quantity of feed.
    • How to recognize incipient Injuries and/or Illnesses in pack animals such that they are not being worked while injured or ill.
    • How to train pack animals positively (via natural horsemanship methods), so as to avoid resorting to starving and/or beating them or kicking their eyes out. The primary "training method" in Supai all too often seems to have relied upon starving and beating pack animals to the point where they lose their spirit, instead of positively training them as pack animals, as is done by wranglers working for Xanterra, for example, in the Grand Canyon.
    • How to tack up and load pack animals such that the animals will not be working while in pain or injured. One idea would be to seek a team of volunteer wranglers currently working for one of the mule concession companies at the North or South Rims of Grand Canyon National Park to act as trainers in a one-or-more- day seminars. Wranglers working out of Supai who attend such seminar(s) and subsequently show proficiency in Grand Canyon-proven techniques can receive a card or certificate of proficiency signed by the same Grand Canyon volunteer wrangler-teachers. (Note: at first, depending on where these courses are conducted, they may require an armed "escort.")
    • Natural horsemanship training in how to become a partner with pack animals instead of a "master" relying on force, abuse and starvation to convince the animals to do their jobs. 
  13. A course should be taught in the Supai primary school which focuses on humane treatment of all animals, humane training of animals, and the ethics of animal ownership (as well as the legalities of animal treatment). This  would be a possibly essential start in steering the "animal culture" in Supai away from rough treatment and gratuitous cruelty and toward a more enlightened and humane perspective into the future.
  14. Mechanisms must be set into place to reliably and routinely ensure compliance by wranglers operating on Havasupai land. For the benefit of the pack animals they employ, these wranglers must routinely make use of all facilities, supplies, feed, shade structure(s), water, and veterinary care, etc. made available by the Tribe or by any Tribally-sanctioned outside donor agency. Consequences of denying pack animals proper, appropriate and routine access to the above-mentioned goods and services should include significant penalties and/or punishments to the offending wrangler(s) AND owners of the animals affected. Additionally, consequences to those same parties must be incurred for the beating, whipping, kicking or other means of administering pain to pack animals as "management" tactics. Penalties to repeat offenders should include the permanent loss of any right to operate pack animals on Havasupai land, and should perhaps also include permanent confiscation of the pack animals.