Dogs in Thailand
Many of you know Thailand as “The Land of Smiles”, where the sun (almost) always shines, nature is abundant and the people are friendly and approachable. Unfortunately, time has taught me that this is just what shows on the surface: the real Thailand can be very unforgiving, disrespectful towards life and at times, outright disgusting and shameful.
I have been living in Ao Nang for numerous years now, working for a marine conservation program, trying to get the locals to understand the importance of protecting the environment, recycling, and not polluting (an ordeal with a whole set of difficulties of its own), but the story I’m about to tell you is a different one. The story I want to tell you is about the innumerable stray animals, dogs in particular, that roam these roads, uncared for, left to themselves, and often targeted by malicious individuals. Krabi region isn’t known for being the cleanest, safest, nor one of the most educated locations in Thailand: most people here are driven by the need to grasp at all the money they can get from tourists, giving little thought to what they are doing to the environment in the process. This clashes with the general image that the world has of Thailand as a spiritual place where people and nature live in harmony and peace. This is particularly true when it comes to stray dogs, who are often seen as vermin and pests, rather than pets. The reasons are various, religious beliefs being first amongst them, but this page wasn’t created to point fingers and find the culprits, but rather to gather the few people that do want to help out and to find enough generous donors who can help financially.
In many cases, people here are fearful of every dog they see, let it be small, big, owned, or stray. I have seen people run to the opposite side of the road screaming in fear of my dog which I was walking on a leash, parents rushing to pick up their child and “save” them from my dog which was happily trotting along the beach, and been at the center of many similar events throughout the years, some more intense than others. Unfortunately, fear often leads to hate and violence; from the small cases of a person throwing a stick at the dogs to scare them away, to people throwing rocks, and all the way to individuals luring dogs out from the Temples where they find refuge in order to feed them poisoned food and purposefully run them over with their cars.
I have tried to approach the issue with a number of people, trying to understand what the reason behind this fear and hate is, but unfortunately, no one has given me a straight answer. Many hide behind Religion, claiming that their teachings say dogs are unclean and evil creatures, but after some research, I have confirmed this to be untrue. To this day it is still unclear to me precisely why or how this hate for dogs has developed in this area. Regardless of the cultural and/or religious beliefs, the effect of it is that dogs are rarely seen as pets, but often seen as pests that need to be eradicated. This has been especially true in recent years after some tourists were allegedly attacked by a pack of wild dogs on the beach. The government got involved, Facebook warriors took arms at their keyboards and people started calling for mass culling, shooting, and poisoning. Harmless, vaccinated and neutered dogs were rounded up from public beaches and brought to holding facilities that resemble concentration camps. We saved the ones we could, but unfortunately, we didn’t have the space to save them all. The remaining stray dogs roam the streets in search of scraps of food to survive, they are often sick and starving, in desperate need of medical care.
Fortunately, since Thailand is officially a Buddhist country, we can find some Temples (Wat) in the area which take in these dogs, feeding them and tending to their needs to the best of their capabilities. To my understanding, being a Buddhist Monk requires that a person give up all their worldly possessions and rely only on the generosity of others to feed themselves and survive. They are not allowed to own money, let alone spend it. Monks walk the roads every morning visiting the locals, which donate food and household items for them to eat and use. Some people come to the temples and donate directly there. Very few people take notice of the dogs, none donate food or medical items for them.
In our free time, my colleagues and I visit one of these temples and take care of the dogs that inhabit it by taking them to the vet in Krabi town, where they receive the medical care they need, their vaccinations and where they get sterilized in order to tackle the problem of the ever-growing population. We also visit some dogs that do not live on the temple grounds because they do not get accepted by the pack, and that are forced to continue living on the road. Needless to say, food, medicines, vaccines, and surgeries are not free, and unfortunately, none of us has a hidden stash of money put away to spend on these adorable dogs. Nevertheless, most of the money we need comes out from our limited salaries, and from donations from friends and kind-hearted souls.
After 4 years of running a GoFundMe page, we have decided to set up our own website to better promote the work that we do and to hopefully find new families for the dogs we take care of.
From the information that we managed to gather over the past years, the first person who steadily took care of the dogs at our temple was an Austrian lady named Evelyn. This happened approximately 15 years ago, when she used to come to AoNang on vacation every year and bring them food and medicines. From then onwards a number of people have helped out over the years passing the baton from one to the next until Margriet got Monti involved, and in turn, she introduced me (Andy) to the dogs. Over the past few years, I have had the luck to be helped out immensely by many other people: Simon, Rick, Angelika, Johanna, Kari, Catherine, and Sam to name a few, as well as our vets from the Animal Hospital in Krabi, some of the local business owners, foster families, donors, etc.
When it comes to the dogs, we have seen a very large number of them call the temple their home, some for longer than others. The vast majority of the dogs were abandoned at the temple by locals who didn’t want to deal with them as puppies. Very few adult dogs were ever integrated into the pack simply because the existing dogs would very rarely accept them.
The highest number of dogs at the temple at a single moment was just over 40, and the lowest was 12. On average there are approximately 20 dogs at the temple and 10 in foster homes at any given time.
Since we started, we have rehomed over 40 dogs (about half locally and half internationally).
Unfortunately, we have also lost a number of dogs to diseases, road accidents, some got poisoned and some simply disappeared or ran away. The temple grounds are not enclosed in a wall, and even if they were, it would be impossible to keep them inside at all times since the gates would still be open. For this reason, we have been exploring the possibility of setting up a sheltered and enclosed area in a new location in the not too distant future, if our finances allow us to.
With the money you so generously provide us through your donations we provide:
- Dry food: there is always food out for the dogs to eat so they do not fight over it – 20kg bag = 500THB, we use about 2bags per week
- Wet food: upon necessity (for dogs who need the extra calories or who need to take meds – 1 can = 35THB
- Treats: a dog that is easy to catch makes it so much less tressful to administer medications and shots when needed – 1 bag = 40-120THB
- Vaccinations: Combination Vaccine + Rabies Vaccine ~1200THB for the first year + ~350THB every successive year
- Parasite Prevention: Ticks, Fleas, Worms, etc. 1 dose for 1 dog costs approx. 500THB and will cover for about 1-3 months
- Sterilizations: 1dog= ~1500-2000THB
- Medications: all medical conditions are taken care of, from simple irritations to wounds, infections, or more complex cases. The cost of the treatment can range from less than 100THB one-off to over 500THB a week, depending on the condition and seriousness of the illness.
- Surgeries: from minor surgeries such as tumor asportation to major ones such as limb amputations. The cost ranges from about 5000THB to over 15000THB.
- Rehoming: if the adoptive family cannot afford to cover the flight costs, we are willing to help out to ensure that the dogs get a forever home. Depending on the destination and the documentation required, relocating a dog can cost from ~30.000 to ~60.000THB