Equine Rescue

Havasupai Reach Horse Agreement with Advocacy Group

Nancy Harrison, KPNX Channel 12

“This is seen as a ground-breaking move…”

SUPAI, Ariz. – Known for its turquoise blue waterfalls, more than 25,000 hikers visit the Havasupai Falls at the bottom of the Grand Canyon every year.

(Photo: Katie Miliavacca)

(Photo: Katie Miliavacca)

A woman who has been leading a tireless effort for years to stop the abuse of horses and mules which carry tourists’ heavy gear,  ice chests, and camping supplies down nearly 10 miles to the bottom of the Grand Canyon says she and a tribal leader are now in amicable talks to improve the health of the pack animals.

“A tribe animal control officer says she has paid someone to fill the 300 gallon water trough at the top of the trailhead into the canyon for the next three months,” said Susan Ash of the advocacy group SAVE Havasu Horses. “She has also given SAVE and other groups permission to bring hay and even more water.”

This is seen as a ground-breaking move on the part of the Havasupai tribe.

For several years, animal rights advocates and hundreds of tourists from around the world have posted photos and videos on social media showing horrible animal abuse. Tourists consistently report seeing injured and even dying horses lying on the side of the trail going in to the canyon.

Still, many people never see the physical abuse as injuries are generally found under the horse’s blanket and saddle.

The animal advocates and many tribal supporters have been at odds over the issue for decades.

Ash said the tribal animal control officer told her she also plans to get three more water troughs for the animals. Currently there are only a couple of small troughs at the trailhead and when a 12 News crew recently visited the trailhead, all of the troughs were dry.

“We are extremely happy about the tribe’s step to ensure that there is adequate water and food for the animals at Hilltop,” Ash said. “We sincerely hope this is the first of many reforms the tribe will make in taking care of their animals. We will continue to offer help to bring these animals to a healthy condition and to keep them that way.”

Meantime, yesterday the Havasupai tribe had other news.

The tribe announced Thursday it would temporarily suspend third-party travel companies including REI, Pygmy and many others from using the pack animals to go into Supai until the methods of properly taking care of the animals is examined by the tribal council.

In April, 12 News was first to report U.S. federal officers seizing four badly abused horses from a tribal member and putting them in to the care of a veterinarian with the Coconino County Humane Association in Flagstaff.

The horse owner was prosecuted and tried for several counts of animal abuse.  A federal court judge ordered Leland Joe is not allowed to own pack animals for three years and is on probation. This was the first time in history that the U.S. government rescued pack animals from the Havasupai reservation, something the federal government can legally do, but has avoided in the past.


4 replies »

  1. This is good news, but interesting to note REI among the tour groups being suspended for now. Sally Jewell, the DOI head who oversees management of all our wild horses and burros, was the head of REI before being appointed to the DOI. I suggest all REI customers and members take notice and speak up as it is a member-based cooperative entity which emphasizes using only human-powered recreational activities. I know because I am a member. That REI could have supported this animal abuse to save people from having to exert themselves by carrying their own effects is inconsistent and inexcusable.


    • Good point that I never thought of. I’ve known it to happen before. Goes to personal livestock instead of intended animals. Good point.


Care to make a comment?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.