Navy shows soft spot for strays
The cream of Sattahip's homeless dogs get a role in military missions, writes Wassana Nanuam
The problem of stray dogs may draw scant interest from the majority of the public, but it is not overlooked by the navy, which has embarked on a long-term campaign to assist Thailand's homeless hounds.
At the navy's recruit training centre in Chon Buri's Sattahip district, a six-rai plot of land has been set aside for a shelter for stray dogs, with even more land pegged for their safeguarding for the future.
Navy chief Kraisorn Chansuwanich wants stray dogs to be well taken care of, with enough space to romp and pools to swim in under the heat, centre chief Capt Saman Kanthapong said.
The centre, which currently provides a refuge for 259 dogs, is looked after by six naval personnel who walk the dogs several times a day to ensure they get enough exercise, according to Capt Saman.
The men selected for the job must be animal lovers, as they have to deal with foul smells and the dirty work of caring for the animals, he said.
Canines with a healthy appearance are trained for military missions, but Capt Saman says most of the good-looking ones are adopted by members of the local community.
A shelter Facebook page, showcasing photos of each dog, was launched so outsiders can adopt them or donate money, he added.
"We use leftover food from the recruit training centre to feed the dogs," said Capt Saman. "The servicemen separate bones and other dangerous bits from it first," he added.
The facility is always kept clean with servicemen cleaning the floor with detergent every two days, Capt Saman said.
According to the officer, it costs between 30,000-40,000 baht to run the facility, and donations continue to flow from animal lovers nationwide who find out about the shelter.
Petty Officer 1st Class Krisanachai Phujomjit, who heads the team at the shelter, has looked after canines here for more than a decade.
He trains dogs to interpret and respond to human behaviour, and has been dubbed "Dr Dog".
He and his five subordinates refrain from expressing anger or punishing dogs without reason, as this would cause fear among the animals, he said.
According to the team, the centre will grow under Adm Kraisorn's orders to create a "Doggy Home Stay Sattahip" project to rescue and treat vagrant dogs found roaming around Sattahip and Bangkok at the navy's facilities.
Under the seven-year scheme, stray dogs and cats will receive medical treatment, sterilisation and training, and prospective owners will have the opportunity to adopt them. The programme will help reduce the number of stray animals in cities, team members said.
Many urban dogs suffer from poor health and illnesses, and are a cause of health concerns in communities.
Under the programme, three shelters will be set up for the destitute beasts.
In addition to the recruit training centre and the Royal Thai Fleet, which already provides shelter for 350 dogs and 80 cats, a new shelter will be established at the Royal Thai Marine Corps in Sattahip.
The target is to keep 500 dogs and 100 cats at each one. The recruit training centre and The Royal Thai Fleet shelters will also be upgraded.
According to the team, ongoing fundraising will be needed for the upkeep of the new shelters and to buy dog food, which costs about four baht per dog per day.