Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Phuket, Thailand
Visited: May 2018
In the past few years I have been to Thailand a handful of times, and, like in many parts of the world, stray dogs and cats are not an uncommon sight. On my most recent trip, I stopped off for a tour of the Soi Dog Foundation facility in Phuket. Soi Dog is one of the leading animal rights organizations in Thailand. For some time now, I have heard their name associated with ending the mistreatment of animals and the dreaded dog meat trade in Asia. In Phuket, the number of street dogs and cats has steadily decreased over the 15-years, significantly due to Soi Dog’s dedication to improving the welfare of these animals. More change is happening as the organization expands its presence to Bangkok and other parts of the country.
Soi Dog staffer, Rachel, looks after the volunteers and also manages to spread some love among the animals.
Phuket is currently the only rabies-free province in all of Thailand due entirely to the widespread vaccinations provided by Soi Dog since 2003. This year a panic has spread through the country over an increase in reported rabies cases. Many people are abandoning their pets at government shelters while others in the community are calling for all street animals, including those that are not infected, to be round up for a mass euthanasia effort.
Soi Dog rescues and advocates for dogs and cats.
Overcrowding and inadequate care and food at government animal shelters have resulted in the suffering and deaths of thousands of perfectly healthy dogs. Soi Dog continues to advocate for "Capture, Neuter, Vaccinate, Release," and has spoken out to try to calm public hysteria and inform people about vaccinating animals to prevent further spreading of rabies in Thailand. Unfortunately, combatting the fear fueled by an onslaught of inaccurate information and exaggeration of the problem has proven to be quite a tricky endeavor.
Soi Dog does not agree with the government shelter system, but after much persistence, were allowed to enter a shelter in Thailand's Nakhon Phanom province to provide medical care for dogs suffering as a result of the poor conditions. As of this writing, the foundation has also donated USD 17,000 (B560,600) to rebuild the quarantine section of the Suan Pa Bang Kanun stray dog shelter located in the northern province of Phuket. The funds are intended for the construction of an adequate quarantine area and the installation of a modern water filtration system. Soi Dog already provides all medical care at this shelter. (Read More).
A litter of puppies in Soi Dog's care head home with a volunteer for foster care until they can be adopted.
Under normal circumstances, temples and businesses might give homeless animals food and water or let them sleep under an awning or other covering, but should they be sick, hurt or abused, these animal lovers do not have the skills or resources to help them. Soi Dog was specifically created to help the community care for these homeless animals and reduce their numbers. Despite the challenges they have faced, their work in Thailand and other parts of Asia is changing the mindset that the mistreatment of street dogs and cats does not matter.
Staff and volunteers nurture Soi Dog's animal guests as much as possible to help them heal and become socialized with the good humans.
In 2003, John and Gill Dalley established Soi Dog in response to the overwhelming number of stray dogs and cats in Phuket. There were 70,000 strays in Phuket alone then, many of which were sick or injured. Though the Dalley's had initially moved to Thailand to retire, they soon found themselves sneaking up on and sedating street dogs with a blow dart loaded with tranquilizers. It might sound a bit bizarre but sedating them was the safest way for John and Gill to get them to a vet for sterilization (spay/neuter), vaccinations, and any needed medical treatment.
When the tsunami hit Phuket in 2004, the number of homeless and suffering animals grew to epidemic proportions. John and Gill worked tirelessly to save as many as they could, a selfless and heart-tugging act that drew international attention to Soi Dog and its incredible founders. Donations began to come in from around the world backing Soi Dog in their efforts, and to this day everything the foundation has achieved is due solely thanks to the support of donors and volunteers.
Sadly, Gill lost her battle with cancer in 2017, and the world was forced to say goodbye to a truly inspiring human being. John has carried on their work, keeping Gill's incredible spirit and love for animals alive. There has been over 200,000 canine and feline sterilizations and vaccinations at Soi Dog in the past 15-years. The service is also offered free of charge to local pet owners and lovers whom Soi Dog reaches through their Community Outreach program.
Thousands of animals have received veterinary care through Soi Dog. Many stay on at the foundation due to poor health or other circumstances. They are housed and cared for there until a forever home is found for them. Soi Dog raises funds through sponsor donations to care for those who are not adopted.
This board is updated and posted daily to remind staff and visitors of what can be accomplished when you set your mind to it.
In 2018 fundraising efforts resulted in the opening of a new veterinary hospital at the Soi Dog facility in Phuket. Eleven Thai vets work at the hospital along with veterinarian volunteers from several countries who travel here to help with the thousands of dogs and cats that arrive in need of care each year. Additionally, Soi Dog hosts vets from Cambodia and Vietnam in and receive extensive training in the care of street animals.
Some in the west believe that the dog meat trade continues in Asia because it is less expensive to eat dog than other meat. However, dog meat is considered a delicacy and those who consume it pay top dollar. What is more upsetting, is that they also believe that the release of adrenaline tenderizes the meat. As a result, these poor creatures endure unspeakable cruelty and torture, often for several hours, before being slaughtered.
The most widely known promotion of dog meat consumption is the Dog Meat & Lychee Festival that occurs in Yulin, China annually despite local and global protests. Dog meat is available throughout Asia, not just in China. Though the dog meat trade remains legal in most countries, efforts to stop the dog meat trade in Asia have started to make headway, and Soi Dog is a leader in this. In 2014 the Thai government officially made it illegal to trade in or consume dog meat in Thailand. The Soi Dog Foundation was the driving force in getting the word out around the world and petitioning the government to pass this law.
Never say no to a walk. I'm talking to you humans.
Soi Dog has also expanded its efforts to work with governments and opponents of the dog meat trade in neighboring countries. The organization often posts billboards in areas where consuming dog meat is still prevalent.
Many of the animals arrive with serious skin issues. Visit the Soi Dog website to see the incredible transformation kindness makes possible.
In South Korea, until just recently, it was widely believed, that the dogs being butchered were somehow different than dogs kept as pets. Large advertisements posted to the side of buses were used to promote Soi Dog's, "A Dog is a Dog," campaign. The campaign brought attention to the fact that street dogs are not in any way different and that many dogs captured and sold by traders are, indeed, someone's pet. Domesticated animals trained to follow the commands of humans are not difficult to catch.
The South Korean government is working with Soi Dog and other groups to create laws that will eventually end the trade of dog meat in South Korea and has already banned the slaughter of dogs at Moran Market, the largest seller of dog meat in Seoul. Just two weeks ago on 21 June 2018, a court in the city of Bucheon ruled that the killing of dogs for meat is illegal (Read More). This decision and enforcement of the law will hopefully lead to a rapid ending of the dog meat trade in South Korea.
Nothing like a good scratch!
Soi Dog is now working with the Vietnamese government and the country's national television broadcaster in hopes to end the dog meat trade in Vietnam where approximately 5-million dogs are slaughtered for meat each year.
In China, the Soi Dog Foundation provides financial support for local animal activists who care for thousands of dogs rescued from traders and the festival in Yulin China. These dogs are forced to live in such cruel and inhumane conditions that many do not live long after being rescued.
A hug from a volunteer is appreciated but his eyes say' "I'd like a treat too, please."
If you are looking for a trustworthy non-profit organization to support the humane treatment of dogs and cats in Thailand, Soi Dog is an excellent choice. To learn more about the Soi Dog Foundation. or to make a charitable contribution to help them combat cruelty and improve animal welfare, visit their website. https://www.soidog.org.