It's a Thai dog's life
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It's a Thai dog's life

It's a contradictory atmosphere when it comes to matters of animal welfare in Thailand.

Thais learn from a very young age to be merciful to animals. To abstain from harming other living beings is the first commandment of Buddhism's five basic precepts taught in elementary school classrooms. Yet, too many of us still grow up with a nonsensical attitude towards animals and tend to treat them inhumanely.

Elephants soliciting money on Bangkok's streets and poorly treated zoo animals are certainly among the victimised creatures.

But dogs -- both housed and stray -- are a particular subject I'd like to talk about. The population of dogs on the streets of Thailand's capital city is reported to have reached 300,000.

When it comes to having pet dogs, lots of Thais take compassion as fondness. Respect and responsibility aren't usually included. For them, dogs are seen as toys, domestic amusement or a symbol of the family's financial well-being.

They purchase the dogs at expensive prices and the dogs stay in the household only for the owner's pleasure. When the pooches aren't able to serve the master's selfish purposes, they will be neglected, maltreated and even kicked out.

The nation's first law against animal cruelty was passed in 2015. The new law defines cruelty as any action that causes an animal to suffer physical or mental torture, pain, illness, disablement or death.

Animals protected by the anti-cruelty law are domestic pets, and animals kept for food, work or entertainment purposes.

Despite this, inhumane incidents towards our four-legged friends still occur relentlessly in the Land of Smiles. Case after case of people treating dogs as objects to take out their fury on continue to make headlines in the media. Perpetrators range from senseless youngsters to well-heeled grown-ups and even veteran monks.

Of course, there are countless people who wholeheartedly regard their pet dogs -- pedigree or mutt -- as family members, who they have so they can grow old together.

This is also a society in which avid animal lovers (including myself) are quick to feed filthy-looking stray dogs, and play with them to help improve their welfare when possible. 

Thailand is also blessed with various active circles of animal lovers and charities working for the benefit of unfortunate dogs. Soi Dog Foundation, founded in 2003 by English couple John and Gill Dalley, is one of the inspiring home-grown groups. 

Over the years, the charity has helped restore the well-being of many dogs and cats that have been abused, neglected and affected by disaster. 

It also works to humanely reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats through spaying and neutering, with the ultimate aim to create a society without stray animals.

Recently, the foundation launched its first mobile adoption campaign in Bangkok with a particular objective to find adopters for dogs that have survived the dog meat trade. A number of them were kidnapped from their residences across the country.

According to the foundation, currently there are over 1,100 dogs, all rescued from the dog meat trade, living in purposely-built, but crowded, shelters in the Northeastern province of Buri Ram. The dogs are taken care of by the foundation and other volunteers. The mobile adoption event is one of the ways Soi Dog is trying to alleviate this overcrowding.

"The aim is to free up some spare space for the constant flow of abandoned and sick animals that are always coming in," said one of the foundation's officials.

The campaign aims to re-home approximately 500 dogs. The vast majority of the animals are adoptable. And there's no adoption fee. Call 088-705-7393 if you are interested in supporting their work.

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Vanniya Sriangura

Senior writer and food columnist of Life

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist of Life.

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