Saving dogs from cruelty in Thailand
By Warren Young and Carla Hepburn
On our recent trip to Asia we spent a week volunteering with the SOI DOG Foundation in Phuket Thailand, as we have been donating for a few years, we decided to find out for ourself what it is all about. Well, this turned out to be the highlight of our whole holiday!
We were assigned to a run of 20 dogs and our function was to socialise, play with them and walk each dog around a large dam on a lead once or twice a day.
All of these beautiful dogs have been to hell and back; having been abandoned, negelected, attacked by cruel people, severely hurt in accidents or had been rescued from the horrific dog meat trade.
It took some time for some of the dogs to trust us; some were very scared and did not trust anyone, others were sad and some were running around being a bit boisterous.
As several dogs started to trust us a little, they would sometimes put their paws on us very gently and look into our eyes with such love, that it was truly a life changing experience.
Some of the dogs and cats have been at the shelter for a few years, others since they were small puppies and kittens.
The volunteers are very dedicated and extremely well organized, some come for a week, some a month, others for years and some never leave!
All the volunteers we have met, seem such lovely, caring people and love making a difference to the lives of these cats and dogs.
Apart from the volunteers from all over the world, SOI DOG employs mostly Burmese staff, some who live on the premises.
They do an amazing job of feeding, cleaning and general care of the cats and dogs. They also have dog catching teams and emergency response teams 24/7.
One of the permanent staff members 'Dow', will sometimes sleep in one of the dog enclosures if one of the new dogs is not settling in very well. She is a beautiful caring lady, whom we call 'the dog whisperer'.
SOI DOG Foundation is the largest NGO in South East Asia and is affiliated with many other animal welfare groups, who rescue and help elephants, bears, gibbons, orangutangs etc.
They are a Non Profit legally charitable organisation in Thailand, US, UK, Australia , France, Canada and the Netherlands. The foundation solely functions on donations and does not get government funding.
SOI DOG has just reached the milestone over 120.000 sterilisations of dogs and cats, thousands more have been treated for injury and disease, by providing emergency and ongoing veterinarian treatment.
80% of the dog population on Phuket island have been sterilised and vaccinated and according to the world health organisation, is the first rabies free province in Thailand.
'They now have mobile vet clinics that travel to different parts of Thailand, they target a certain area and endevour to reach that critical 80% point of sterilisation.
SOI DOG have built and financed a large holding facility in Northern Thailand to house the many hundreds of dogs that get rescues from the cruel dog meat trade and through their endevour with the Thai police and authorities, have all but stopped the illegal dog meat smuggling.
A lot of these dogs are stolen family pets or are snatched from the streets.
They are squashed into little cages, in very cruel and inhumane situations, where they are often taken on the back of trucks on long journeys to Vietnam and neighbouring countries, who still allow these horrible cruel practises.
In a lot of cases these people believe that the more suffering a dog goes through, the more tender and flavourful the meat, in fact the dogs are often skinned and boiled alive!
Can you believe such cruel and barbaric practises still exsist in this day and age! Hard to believe that some of these sweet dogs we cared for, were destined for somebody's dinner plate!! Too horrendous to contemplate!!
Two of the original co founders, back in 2003; John and Gill Dally, are amazing people. They are totally dedicated to end the suffering of animals in south east Asia.
Their story of when they first started SOI DOG, along with a lady called Margot Homburg is quite remarkable, with all the trials and tribulations they have endured, which would have had many people falter and give up.
From the devastating tsunami, through which they lost a collegue, to the tragic circumstances where one day they darted a dog to be brought in for sterillisation; the dog ran into a buffalo field and would have drowned once the anesthetic took hold, if not for the bravery of Gill, who managed to wade across the flooded field and drag the heavy dog back a few hundred meters to safety.
Gill saved the dog, but a few days later she became seriously ill and spent the next few months in hospital at death's door, hovering between life and death.
Her prognosis was not good; she could have all four limbs amputated. Gill was eventually brought back from the brink, but unfortunately her legs were amputated and eventually she was fitted with prostetic legs.
This did not deter Gill from caring for the animals though. John and Gill are still very dedicated and active at SOI DOG and we met them there last week. What a amazing couple!
SOI DOG only just managed to safe his life, Cola healed well and Gill adopted him. He was fitted with prostetic legs and is now a happy and well adjusted dog, despite everything he has endured. Gill and him have a very special bond and are now inseparable!
Dogs and cats can be adopted overseas, many have their flight costs already donated. You can also sponsor a dog/cat or donate once or monthly, purchase merchandise online or if you are headed for Thailand please come and visit or even better: volunteer! One thing we know for sure: we will be back as volunteers next year!!