- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - An 8-year-old girl’s death from a dog attack on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a month ago has left her mother drained and too heartbroken to stay in the home they shared. One of the few bright spots for the Griffith family is the steady progress they’re making on Jayla’s Dream, an effort to improve animal control and start a shelter in her memory on the southern South Dakota reservation.

Jayla Rodriguez’s maternal family learned on Friday that the state officially approved Jayla’s Dream as a nonprofit. Danielle Griffith, Jayla’s mother, said her loved ones have come together to see the process through since Jayla’s death. A fundraising campaign started by Jayla’s aunt, Camille Griffith, has raised nearly $5,700 - more than half of the family’s initial goal.

“I don’t want it to be one of those things where it slowly simmers and doesn’t happen and we’re … regretting it later,” said Camille Griffith, 25. “I feel like (Jayla’s) helping us, too, because normally things don’t go this smoothly.”

“This is the only good thing that’s actually going on,” Danielle Griffith, 26, added.

Tribal police have said that Jayla was killed by a pack of dogs while sledding on Nov. 18. FBI Spokesman Kyle Loven said Monday that an investigation into her death remains ongoing.

Her death renewed concerns among tribal leaders about the longstanding problem of packs of roaming dogs. Oglala Sioux officials captured and killed an unknown number of dogs on the reservation shortly after Jayla died. But Danielle Griffith says that’s not what her daughter would have wanted.

About two weeks before she died, Jayla said she wanted to help animals on the reservation after seeing an injured dog, a wish that inspired Jayla’s Dream. Jayla especially loved her own dog, Buppy, a Chihuahua_dachshund mix.

Now, an uncle is interested in donating land a few miles from the city of Pine Ridge to house the shelter; her mother is designing a logo; her father wrote the articles of incorporation for the nonprofit; and a cousin helped build a website. Camille Griffith has put off getting her master’s degree to stay close to her family and ensure the organization gets off the ground.

Jayla’s Dream had a booth on Friday at the Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City, where the Griffiths got some help from the community - including a number of children - in brainstorming ideas for the shelter. Among the suggestions: “Train pets to dance,” ”Dinosaur wallpaper,” and, “Cuddle all the puppies.”

Tribal Councilwoman Ellen Fillspipe said she would like to hear from the Griffiths about Jayla’s Dream as part of her efforts to improve animal control on Pine Ridge. Fillspipe’s son, a friend of Jayla’s, was the impetus behind Braedon’s Law, an ordinance that in part bans certain types of dogs, after he was attacked by two pit bulls. Fillspipe, now chairwoman of the council’s Law and Order Committee, said the directive hasn’t been adequately enforced.

“It is so bad that we’ve had to have this happen - we’ve had to lose a life in order to become aware again. … This shouldn’t have happened. This shouldn’t have happened at all,” she said.

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