A Decade of Compassion and Dedication

April 23, 2015

HSVMA-RAVS Outreach Veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Shriver, with Jeff at Animal Care Expo 2015 in New Orleans.  HSVMA

Jeff Muhlhauser is an imposing figure. In the full uniform of an animal control officer for the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state, he strides in as a powerful blue column stretching from floor to ceiling and you hope that, when you finally tilt your head far enough to see his face, it will be smiling. Fortunately, it usually is. Jeff is a great friend of HSVMA-RAVS, and the meals he prepares for us are legendary. From his new offices and kennel, Jeff works for the Tribal Police handling animal calls of all sorts. He has one part-time assistant to help in the kennel, but the responsibility for such a large area with many remote communities is heavy, even on his broad shoulders.

It wasn't always like this. When Jeff responded to an ad for the tribe’s animal control officer in 2002, it was for the sole purpose of getting stray animals off the streets. He had been working in security and bail enforcement; high-stress jobs that he was ready to leave behind. Though the position was only 25 hours a week, Jeff made the move to the lush rainforest of the coastal Olympic peninsula. When a single person is hired part-time to reduce the number of strays, there is little doubt what the intent is. Jeff soon realized that you can't euthanize your way out of pet overpopulation, and even if you could, it would not address all the other animal health problems. Mange was endemic, and frequent outbreaks of parvovirus tore through litters. Jeff educated himself on what animal control should be, and reached out to nearby shelters for advice and assistance.

Modernizing Animal Control

As Jeff increased his understanding of modern, humane animal control, he set out to bring that philosophy to a community with a culture of allowing dogs to run free, unvaccinated and unneutered/unspayed. Though still only being paid as a part-time employee, Jeff was already setting his pattern of working as long as needed to help the animals and people of the Quinault Indian Nation. Realizing effective animal control requires the ability to hold stray or injured animals in a kennel, he researched kennel design. On presenting his own modest-but-effective design to the tribal leadership, he was told there was no money for the project. Discouraged but undaunted, Jeff continued working to improve the plight of pets. After two-and-a-half years his job was upgraded to full time, but there was still no approval for a kennel. His work with nearby shelters and veterinarians opened paths to rehoming strays, and he continued his education on vaccinations, preventive medicine, and the key role of spay/neuter in effectively reducing stray populations.

Our first trip to the Quinualt Indian Nation was in 2003, and we were welcomed by Jeff from the start. Working in support of Jeff’s efforts, RAVS brought on-site spay and neuter, a high-volume vaccination model, and strong support of Jeff’s efforts to: 1) educate the community on the risks to animal and public health of poor husbandry, and 2) enhance animal control procedures and facilities. Sadly, after three years and excellent cooperation from Jeff, a lack of resources forced RAVS to cancel our Washington trips. Being a group depending on donations to continue its work, RAVS must carefully plan each year how to use limited resources available. Many native communities ask for a RAVS clinic, but we can’t be everywhere. Jeff continued to work hard, improve his knowledge, work with area shelters, and propose a much-needed kennel every year. When RAVS was able to return in 2009, it was to a community with modest improvements in animal care, and a Jeff that was working hard, but still without a kennel. RAVS has returned each year since 2009, and every year Jeff outdoes himself with his welcome and the feasts he provides. Jeff asks Erin Ludwig, RAVS Program Coordinator, for the clinic roster well before the clinic and prepares name tags that include each volunteers’ hometown so the community can appreciate how far our volunteers travel to help. Though not a tribal member, Jeff honors the potlatch tradition of the Coast Salish culture with gifts to all at the end of each clinic.

Moving Towards a Healthier Animal Population

Jeff proudly stands in front of the reservation's new kennel.  HSVMA

Every year since he started, Jeff presented his need for a kennel to the tribe. Each year it was refused. As his tenth anniversary approached, with ten years of frustration etched on his face, he decided he would give one final effort to convince the tribe of the critical need for a kennel facility. The Chief of Police, his direct supervisor, understood that Jeff’s efforts and plans would benefit the community and were consistent with the respect due all creatures. With his chief’s encouragement, Jeff drew up the architectural plans for a multifunctional animal care and control facility, presented it to tribal leadership, and it was approved! In addition to the new facility completed in 2013, Jeff has seen changes to the housing pet policy, and is working to improve the tribal animal control code—all moving toward a healthier animal population and more humane treatment of animals. This year, Jeff has seen only two cases of mange, very few parvovirus cases, and tourists have commented on the reduced number of strays.

In recognition of Jeff’s accomplishments and to encourage further improvement, HSVMA awarded him a scholarship to attend the 2015 Animal Care Expo—the largest international education/training conference and trade show in the fields of animal care and control, rescue, and emergency services. With his typical enthusiasm, Jeff took in everything he could – from animal behavior to odor control – and returned home recharged and ready for the next challenge. RAVS is ready to help him continue improving the health of the animals and the communities of the Quinault Indian Nation.