Street Dogs of Thailand
Street Dogs Looking for a Friend
Seeing Their Plight First Hand
In 2004 I traveled throughout Thailand documenting the plight of the seemingly endless number of abandoned dogs that lived scattered around the country.
My goal was to help raise money and awareness for the various rescue groups and the SPCA in Bangkok. Little did I know that at the end of my journey my fate was nearly sealed by the very animals I’d come to help rescue. But that's another story for another time.
While walking to the Bangkok rescue center a motor scooter zipped by me. I was amazed to see a family of five dogs ridding in various positions, from the rear fender to the handlebars. The dogs were so at ease that one pooch was even taking a nap.
On the next block I saw a stray dog sheepishly trying to get a handout from a monk, who had nothing to share. This was just the tip of a very large iceberg that separates the way a household pet lives compared to the struggles of Thailand's abandoned street dogs.
A Terrible Way to Die
When I arrived in Bangkok Roger Lohanan, head of the SPCA introduced me to his staff of volunteers. I entered what can be best described as large garage; his staff of three was huddled around a trio of sickly dogs one of which was in labor.
Lohanan told me that each year, more than 68,000 puppies were born on the streets and alleys throughout Thailand. At the time of this interview, the municipal governments solution was to poison all the stray dogs they could capture. It was a sad and horrible way for more than 50,000 stray dogs to die.
“Sometimes they (the government) will neglect to feed captive strays in hopes that they will starve to death before they’re scheduled to die by poison,” says Lohanan.
The reason for Thailand’s pet problem is simple. Pet owners simply fail to spay and neuter their animals. Frequently these dogs will be abandoned by their owners once they are no longer fun to play with or become too expensive to maintain; subsequently they meet other stray dogs and make more puppies. The goal of Thailand’s SPCA is to save the countries animals through educational programs for kids and adults alike.
Donations Keep The Doors Open
Since there isn't any government funding, the SPCA in Thailand is dependent upon the kindness of others. For example, a local woman in Bangkok donated a two-story space that Bohanan uses as their Emergency Center and temporary shelter for injured animals. The RSPCA in England reached out by donating medical supplies and a vehicle that Bohanan uses for the SPCA's spaying and neutering program.
Each day Lohanan and his team worked tirelessly to offer as much aid to Thailand’s sick and injured dogs and cats as humanly possible. “We do what we can with what we have. But we desperately in need help. There are so many animals to save, and time is something they don’t have much of.
World Of Dogs
My next visit was to Pattaya City, about a three-hour drive from Bangkok to visit the World Dog Center where visitors are greeted by a King Kong size ceramic bulldog.
After years of adopting every stray dog and cat that they came across, Sumet Rungsanpitoon and Suttiwan Kaulkaw decided to open up the world’s largest dog center. Their goal was to find a way to entertain and inform the public about the history of dogs and the role they play in society.
“We have more than 250 dogs here at the Center,” explained Thanatip Thininoraseth, Public Relations Director and show emcee. “These dogs come from all over the world, many of them are animals that we have rescued.”
Rescues Live In Custom Designed Homes
These handsome hounds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and personalities. They live together in a spacious com- pound and each one has their own custom-designed dog- house. They are cared for and trained by a staff of devoted animal lovers, including two top Filipino animal trainers, Nancy and Ric Porcalla.
“Our primary goal is to educate our visitors about dogs,” said Thanatip. “Many of them have never seen a dog show and are amazed at how intelligent the animal is. While they are being entertained we also stress how important it is to spay and neuter cats and dogs. It is very gratifying to see them crowd around our dogs for photos and to ask questions at the end of each show. For us it is most important that they leave here with an understanding about how much love a dog can bring to a persons life.”
A Teen Pulls Off a Miracle
One of the most amazing animal rescues I’ve ever chronicled happened in Bangkok. A 15-year old girl from Taiwan named Nina Sharpe pulled off a miracle while visiting Bangkok.
A female had just given birth to a litter of pups in an abandoned lot after being struck by a taxi. Sharpe, who runs a rescue center in Taiwan, sprang into action.
With some help from the cabby that hit the dog, Sharpe climbed a barbed wire fence and rescued the injured dog (she called Mai Tai) and her three pups.
“We pulled back the cardboard and we found three more pups nestled against the mother’s side," says Sharpe". "She raised her head but was unable to move. The poor thing screamed in pain when we attempted to move her.”
A Frantic Cry for Help
Urged on by the young girl, the taxi drivers constructed a makeshift stretcher from plywood then carried the dog she named, Mai Tai and the pups back to their cabs.
Eventually Sharpe found a caring vet who provided the medical help Mai Tai so desperately needed. The dogs' back was broken; clinging to life with a 1% chance of survival, Sharpe considered euthanasia.
Struggling with the life or death decision, the dog lover from Taiwan looked deep into Mai Tai's eyes, her heart melted as the dog licked her cheek. Sharpe decided to fight for Mai Tai's life with all her might. She agreed to pay for Mai Tai's care until she could find the dog a permanent home.
Little to No Chance of Surviving
Sharpe and her family returned to Taiwan and for five months Sharpe called the hospital in Thailand every week as she feverishly tried to find Mai Tai a new home.
Sharpe and her family returned to Taiwan where she appealed to relatives living in San Diego for help. They contacted the TV station I’d worked for, KFMB, who did a story on Mai Tai. Ray Barnes, a retired sailor saw the report and responded immediately
San Diego TV Station Joins the Quest
Ray arranged for Mai Tai’s flight from Thailand to San Diego where he began deep tissue massage to treatments her injured back. “I gave her a deep tissue massage every day along with a variety of stretching exercises. She’s responding real good too. Mai Tai can put her legs down and stand up on them now. I’ve converted her wheel chair to a walker by installing bungee cords to support her weight. This way she can sit down and still move her legs if she wants. She has no sense of balance and sways back and forth because no information is getting to her brain. One of these days I truly believe she will be able to walk without the aid of her stroller.”
“The minute I saw Mai Tai on television I wanted her,” said Ray. “She was a survivor and if an animal ever deserved a good home it was that dog. So I said to myself ‘I bet I can get that dog to walk.’”
Ray called the station and the following day he met with Mina and Mai Tai. It was obvious from the slight wag in her tail and the smile on his face that a perfect match had been made.
“She was a survivor and if an animal ever deserved a good home it was that dog. So I said to myself ‘I bet I can get that dog to walk.’
Barnes has another dog, Chance; a Cocker Lhasa Apso mix, who has also adopted Mai Tai. They’ve become the best of friends and love to take walks together. Since Mai Tai can’t negotiate the stairs Barnes has moved his bedroom down- stairs so that his two best friends can be at his side whenever they want.
Mai Tai, Chance and Ray lived a long and happy live together thanks to the courage of persistence of a caring teen that defied the odds and won.
I’ve lost contact with Nina over the years but according to Google she still runs a shelter for abandoned dogs in Taiwan.
After interviewing everyone involved in Mai Tai’s rescue I had one more rescue group to meet on Koh Samui. It was during that visit, while taking a midnight stroll along an empty beach; I encountered a pack of street dogs that were on the hunt and I was their prey. But like I said earlier, that's another story for another time.
© 2018 Terry L Wilson