Samui is a difficult territory to accurately measure for populations of any kind, due to hills, many wild spots and dispersed villages but it’s reckoned that for every ten people on Samui, there’ll be one dog. That translates as there being 10,000 dogs on the island. Unfortunately, many of them – thousands – will be strays. No owner. No care given. Left to live wild. And to breed.
And that’s become a problem on the island – there are simply more and more dogs around. If you’ve been here for any length of time, you’ll have noticed the increase in stray dogs. Without any control, they’ll simply go on reproducing and leading lives that can often be miserable. And there will also be unfortunate incidents where people get bitten. This in turn will mean a hospital visit and rabies shots, possibly tetanus too. And – ouch! – a dog bite certainly hurts, too.
Fortunately, help has arrived, and the dog population is being dealt with. Soi Dog is a foundation that deals with dogs and cats across the kingdom. Based in Phuket, the non-profit foundation aims to help animals in all kinds of conditions.
There’s a daily routine here on Samui. Every morning dog catchers go out to an area that’s been designated in advance. Here, they know there will be stray dogs around. They capture them and take them to the place where sterilizations and vaccinations are carried out. Some strays of course will be less than happy about this, and tranquillizer darts will be needed. After their procedures, when the dogs feel comfortable again, they’re taken back. Many people bring in dogs themselves, or have their own pets that they wish to have spayed/neutered.
All of this is costly and takes time, but is the most efficient and compassionate way to proceed. Some people believe that the only way is to cull the dogs. This doesn’t work out at all. Dogs are territorial, and once an entire territory is empty, more dogs will soon take over – they will be attracted by the lack of competition for the area, and all too soon will produce a new generation of dogs. Still other people believe that nothing at all needs to be done; they put faith in a sort of happy Darwinism, whereby the dog population somehow eventually regulates itself: only the fittest survive and somehow they reproduce sensibly. Well, this just doesn’t happen. Samui is currently seeing the results of there being too many dogs, too much reproduction and a general lack of control. In the end, it’s the dogs that suffer, as well as the humans.
Soi Dog expects to spend about nine months here on Samui in order to sterilize the dog population. It may take longer, but they’ll put in the time. Afterwards they will move to Koh Pha-Ngan and then Koh Tao. They’re concentrating on dogs but can also deal with cats. (Usually they have a ‘cat day’ when people bring in cats.) The team on Samui includes two vets, three vet nurses, one assistant and two teams of dog catchers.
How can people help? One of the problems is that hotel and construction workers like to bring dogs with them. Often they’re not sterilized and will begin reproducing. The puppies are left behind and quite often the dogs themselves. Companies should therefore think out a policy concerning workers’ animals.
A much bigger cause of strays is garbage. Wherever there’s garbage there are dogs to be found, living off scraps of food. The dogs won’t stay in areas where there’s no food, so it’s a question of everyone doing their utmost to make sure that garbage is left in dog-proof containers and that there’s no overspill.
Soi Dog is determined to eradicate the stray dog problem, and it’s a tough task. Naturally it’s possible to make donations through their website, and many people like to visit the Soi Dog centre in Phuket in order to learn about the organisation. For many visitors it’s the highlight of their holiday – they come into contact with dogs and cats that have been rescued and are in the process of transitioning to brand new lives. Soi Dog also is active in ending the Asian dog meat trade and training vets in Cambodia and Vietnam.
Mobile Clinic Locations (Dates may be subject to change)
4th Sep – 21st Nov: Wat Bo Phuttharam (Maenam & Bophut)
27th Nov – 13th Feb 18: Wat Mai Sri Taweep (Lipanoi, Ang Thong & Maenam)
19th Feb – 8th May 18: Wat Samret (Maret, Taling Ngam & Namuang
Working Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm including Public Holidays
For further information, telephone 0 984 860 3690 (Dr Ratanaporn) or 0 937 606 065 (Khun Sampan).