Imagine arriving in Thailand for the first time and in your first week here, you notice large numbers of dogs on the sidewalks and curbs, many of them wandering around like vagabonds in search of sustenance. Some of them are severely injured, but they are all homeless and downright downtrodden. They usually spend their days and nights sleeping, too weak to run and play and too frightened of humans to make any sort of connection with them. So you wonder what happened to them. Why are they like this? Not only is this issue prevalent in Bangkok, but also throughout the country.
What is a “soi” you may ask? It’s a narrow side street in Bangkok where street vendors, apartments, and houses are situated (among other things). On these streets you will notice dogs wandering around, sleeping, or eating if they have managed to find food in the garbage or if someone gave them leftover scraps. Cats can be seen as well although the dogs are more conspicuous. No reason to fear them as they are afraid of humans because they have been dumped on the streets- disowned by their caretakers- left to fend for themselves. Why so many of them on the streets? How many of them are there?
Exactly how many strays?
While no exact amount is known experts estimate, in Bangkok alone, around 300,000 dogs. As Gregg Tully, deputy CEO of the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, noted: “Dog populations tend to follow human populations.” The more people in a society, the more companion animals will exist. And as increasing numbers of them are abandoned by their owners, once on the streets they mate and, consequently, reproduce rapidly and enormously. The situation then spirals out of control unless something is done to alleviate a growing issue in not only Thailand but in other Asian countries such as Nepal. There Tully raised awareness at a similar animal welfare organization before coming to work in Phuket at Soi Dog Foundation in fall 2012.
When the dogs are puppies, cute and cuddly, they are well cared for but as they age, they become less attractive and more time-consuming, which may result in total neglect and even abuse, in some extreme cases, by the owners. Pet owners may take the dogs and cats to Buddhist temples where they are housed and monitored by the monks and the volunteers who go there to sterilize and feed them as in the case of Soi Dog Foundation volunteers. It’s much easier for many people to leave them recklessly on the streets. The animals then wonder what they did to deserve such rejection and punishment. Therefore, they develop distrust toward humans due to the careless behavior of their former caregivers.
Thankfully, there are organizations making a difference in the community so that this widespread problem can be mitigated. For example, the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket has worked tirelessly to rescue dogs on the island and in Bangkok. They have a robust sterilization program that prevents the dogs from proliferating, which only exacerbates the issue. The Pet Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) based in Bangkok also does much to care for and to treat both cats and dogs in the megacity. Completely managed by volunteers, both NGOs have made stride in raising awareness so that local people will understand the dire consequences of animal cruelty and abandonment.
Read an interview with Soi Dog Foundation Founders John and Jill Dalley at this link: http://catalysta.org/paths/Rescuing-Strays-Thailand