Market fire a sad lesson
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Market fire a sad lesson

A fire that ripped through a pet market in Chatuchak district last week, killing more than 5,300 animals, is a tragic loss.

Photos of exotic animals charred by the fire induced tears among pet lovers and understandable anger that such a heartbreaking tragedy was allowed to occur.

Yet this accident barely scrapes the surface of problems affecting the pet business and animal welfare in this country.

An initial investigation showed the fire, reportedly caused by a short-circuit at a canine shop, began about 4.10 am before engulfing the whole pet business section of Sri Somrat Market behind the JJ Mall shopping centre on Kamphaeng Phet 3 Road.

It took about half an hour for firefighters to control the blaze at the country's biggest and most famous pet market, a major part of the so-called petconomy business. There are 118 pet shops selling pets and exotic creatures over a 1,400 sq metre area.

Some animal welfare protection agencies said the market is crammed with shops, almost to the point where there is no vacant space.

Evidently, fire management procedures were lacking, such as regular fire drills, while the number and size of fire extinguishers were inadequate for the area.

That and overcrowding made it hard for the authorities to put out the blaze which spread quickly, while the caged animals of course had no chance to flee.

The problem could have been prevented, or the losses minimised, had the authorities and market owner spotted the potential for trouble and taken action.

Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt and city officials have vowed to correct the problem. City officials will inspect two major pet markets, namely Chatuchak 2 Market in Min Buri district and Sanam Luang 2 Market in Thawi Wattana district, to ensure better fire safety and animal welfare practices.

At the same time, they say they'll raid unauthorised pet markets in the city, to better regulate the business.

The governor also mentioned stronger measures with immediate effect for pet shop owners, saying they will need two permits, one from the city administration and the other from the Department of Livestock Development.

The permits comprise an authorisation to sell live creatures and carcasses under the Animal Epidemics Act, and the Cruelty Prevention and Welfare of Animals Act; and a licence to operate a health-hazardous business under the Public Health Act.

While tougher measures are necessary, Mr Chadchart and various agencies must ensure the new requirements will not give unscrupulous officers a chance to abuse their power, demanding kickbacks.

Apart from that, the authorities must take this opportunity to get tough with exotic pet smuggling or even breeding while raising public awareness about pet keeping.

Animal welfare workers observe that some people seek exotic pets from the market and also from the online trade, and when they tire of them, they release the creatures into the environment, an irresponsible step. The problem gets complicated, especially with creatures belonging to foreign species.

Last year, there were reports that police nabbed an online trader in Bangkok who raised piranha for sale.

Such aggressive fish, if released into waterways, pose a threat to local creatures. In all, the authorities should learn from this sad incident, and ensure that such a tragedy does not happen again.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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