Around one person dies on Phuket’s roads every two days and often alcohol and drugs are involved, yet I see little if any reaction from the authorities or steps being taken. Where are the human pounds to keep drug addicts who pose a far greater threat than any dog?
We have had one confirmed case of rabies – found by Soi Dog Foundation – in 24 years. Despite other dogs in the area being put under observation, no other case has as yet been identified, which is not surprising as most stray dogs on Phuket are vaccinated and sterilised.
We will likely never know how the dog caught the virus. It may have been bitten by one of the hundreds of unvaccinated puppies flown into Phuket each year for sale in pet shops and at the weekend market and temple fairs. If so, the puppy would likely now be dead without anybody knowing it was carrying the disease. It could also have been bitten by a bat or a wild monkey.
We would encourage the Governor to stress the need for owners to exercise proper control of their dogs and have them sterilised, and to take action to stop the insanity of allowing hundreds of unvaccinated puppies to fly into what has been Thailand’s only rabies free province for many years from provinces where rabies is endemic. Puppies cannot be vaccinated against rabies until they are at least 12 weeks old.
Sending more dogs to the already overcrowded and underfunded dog pound, a facility that is little more than a death camp for dogs, will have no long-term effect.
The authorities periodically have a purge on dogs, effectively using a sticking plaster to repair a leaking dam. To solve the stray dog problem on Phuket and throughout Thailand you need to get to the root of the problem which is too many unwanted puppies being dumped. These puppies, if they survive, just replace any dogs previously removed in an endless cycle.
A publicity campaign by the government advising dog owners to have their pets sterilised and educating people on how to care for pets are both badly needed.
Soi Dog is working with schools in Phuket to educate children on both safety and how to care for pets but much more is needed. We also provide free sterilisation to any dog, owned or stray. Unless there is a good reason not to, we return stray dogs to where they came from, as that is the principle of capture, neuter, vaccinate, release. Dogs are territorial and will keep other dogs out. Removing vaccinated, sterilised dogs without good reason only leads to others replacing them and the cycle continues.
There has been an explosion in the pet market in Asia in recent years which is big business. Very few owners, though, understand responsible pet ownership and consider it normal to allow their pets to roam free, rather than taking them out for exercise and at other times keeping them enclosed in their yards.
Because most come from puppy farms where inbreeding and overbreeding lead to poor quality puppies, many develop medical issues which is leading to increasing numbers of pedigree dogs being abandoned.
Meanwhile the pound is filling up not with dangerous dogs but abandoned puppies and pets.
Volunteers and Soi Dog staff do their best to treat the dogs, the vast majority of which were living quite happily in their neighbourhoods. However, disease is a constant problem. Last year many died from canine distemper. Currently we are battling with parvovirus, another killer disease, and we have many puppies and dogs from the pound in our isolation unit. Serious wounds are another daily occurrence.
Incidents like the one in Phang Nga province are fortunately very rare. We understand the pack leader was a known aggressive dog dumped by his owner and there had already been less serious incidents, but nothing was done until the awful attack a couple of weeks ago which grabbed national headlines.
A similar group of dogs was chasing people in Nai Yang National Park. When we were advised of it the leader was caught and removed and the incidents stopped, but such incidents are fortunately rare and nearly all recorded dog bites are caused by uncontrolled owned dogs who are following their instinct to protect their property.
To my knowledge, no action has been taken against the owner of the dog in Phang Nga even though it is now illegal to dump unwanted pets.