HELPING STREET DOGS AND CATS WHO HAVE NO-ONE ELSE TO CARE FOR THEM
For some, the ideal retirement would include daily walks along the beach, on a tropical island. John and Gill Dalley envisioned this dream. The couple wed on the island of Phuket, Thailand in 1996 and returned to the paradise many times before retiring there in 2003. Having enjoyed successful careers in their homeland of England, they decided they wanted to give back to society; in particular, the local community in the place in which they created many happy memories. Without wasting any time, the Dalleys set about finding a humane way to address the stray dog and cat problem on the island, which was, in fact, an issue throughout all of Thailand.
On previous trips to Phuket, the Dalleys were shocked, not just by the vast number of street dogs and cats (estimated at 70,000 at the time), but also by the horrific health conditions. John and Gill learned of another expatriate, Margot Homburg who had been taking dogs in her neighbourhood in Bangkok to be spayed and neutered by a local vet. To fund her efforts, Margot had set up a charity called Soi Dog Foundation.
Soi, meaning “street” in Thailand, is the perfect name for an organization committed to saving and improving the lives of the country’s street animals
The three joined forces and continued the process of mass sterilisation in order to first reduce the number of animals being born on the streets into a life of misery and suffering. Initially, they set up sterilisation clinics throughout the island. John, Gill, and Margot assumed the roles of dog catchers and vet nurses; spay and neuter procedures were carried out by volunteer vets, and occasionally nurses, from overseas. An Australian vet had established a small scale program, focusing her efforts on the many stray dogs taken in by monks. When she moved to Hong Kong, she gave her equipment to Soi Dog Foundation.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated – Mahatma Gandhi
Two local vets offered to perform spay/neuter procedures at cost price. Although still small-scale, the program was proving to be highly effective. John and Gill’s vision of providing a humane and sustainable solution to managing the stray population and address their medical needs had become a reality.
The following year, their patience and dedication were tested. After running into a flooded buffalo field to rescue a tranquilized dog, Gill contracted a rare form of septicemia. She was airlifted to Bangkok and remained in a coma for several weeks. Given a slim chance of survival, Doctors advised that if she did survive, she would likely lose her arms and legs. Gill’s fighting spirit saw her through, and although she did lose both lower legs, she survived and was able to use her arms. Only three weeks after having her legs amputated, Gill was determined to enjoy Christmas at home, and discharged herself from the hospital, returning to Phuket on December 22nd, 2004. Four days later, On December 26th, the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami struck, taking the lives of thousands – including Gill’s closest friend, and a dedicated Soi Dog Foundation volunteer, Leone Cosens.
After much loss, came hope. In 2005, after spending the first few days after the tsunami assisting with the human crisis, Soi Dog Foundation; including, Gill, initially in her wheelchair, began the colossal task of feeding and treating abandoned dogs. Thousands of dogs whose homes and food sources had also been washed away. One positive thing that came out of such devastation is that Soi Dog was now on the map. For months following the tsunami, the foundation was overwhelmed with offers of help from vets and other volunteers, enabling them to run multiple clinics.
Following the disaster, WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), had been very successful with fundraising efforts and were looking for partners. They provided Soi Dog Foundation with a two-year grant. The foundation was now able to employ full-time vets and dog catchers.
Later in the year, Soi Dog became the first of its kind to be granted foundation status in Thailand, and a principally Thai board was established.
Experiencing ill health in 2006, Margot left the Dalleys to lead the foundation on an incredible journey of expansion during the next ten years, driven by their continued commitment to alleviate the suffering of Thailand’s street dogs and cats.
2011 – Thousands of dogs rescued and dozens of arrests made as a result of Soi Dog’s campaign to end illegal export of an estimated 500,000 dogs per year to Vietnam for use as dog meat.
2013 – Funding to build and finance a huge complex of shelters, as well as provide food and medication.
2014 – Thailand introduced its first animal welfare law. Soi Dog Foundation sat on the committee that drafted the law. The Prevention of Animal Cruelty and Provision of Animal Welfare Act makes it illegal to eat dog and cat meat.
2017 – Sadly, after a short battle with cancer, Gill passed away. She devoted the last four years of her life to designing and overseeing the construction of a new, state-of-the-art dog hospital, dedicated entirely to the treatment of street dogs. The is the largest and most comprehensive hospital in Asia, and possibly the world.
The hospital is the fulfillment of Gill’s promise to provide the best possible treatment for the street dogs she loved
John and Gill’s vision is shared internationally. As others learned of their cause, and the difference the foundation is making to the animals, alliances were formed. As well as International Partner Rescue Programs, SOI DOG has become a legally registered charity in other countries: Australia, France, the Netherlands, the UK, the United States, and has a growing presence on two Canadian coasts.
The organization’s continued success is apparent;
Soi Dog Foundation performed 80,000 spay/neuter surgeries in 2018 – an increase of 51% from the previous year, bringing the total to more than 300,000 procedures overall
Tourists are embracing the opportunity to experience John and Gill’s dream paradise. Travel to the foundation to walk dogs has become part of a destination vacation – guests rave about their FIVE STAR EXPERIENCE on Tripadvisor.
Before researching this incredible organization, I, like many, believed their efforts were focused on putting an end to the dog-meat trade. SOI DOG efforts include:
CNVR – controlling overpopulation and eliminating disease by Capture/Neuter/Vaccinate/Release.
MEDICAL TREATMENT – high-quality veterinary care to strays.
SHELTER – provided to victims of cruelty and abuse, disabled animals, abandoned puppies, and others who are unable to survive on the streets.
ADOPTION – Finding permanent homes in Thailand, and overseas for animals in the shelter.
FIGHTING THE ASIAN DOG MEAT TRADE – Dismantling the organised meat trade across the borders and putting an end to eating cats and dogs in Asia.
DISASTER RESPONSE – Initiating fast and effective action to save dogs and cats after natural or man-made disasters.
ERADICATING PUPPY FARMS – Encouraging people to adopt rescue dogs and not buy puppies from pet stores.
ANIMAL WELFARE LAWS – Soi Dog Foundation was instrumental in the introduction of Thailand’s first animal welfare law and sits on committees designed to improve it. Also, the organization campaigns to ensure the law is enforced and the sentences applied (by courts) for cruelty to animals are as severe as the new law allows
EDUCATION AND TRAINING – An emphasis is being put on educating children; both local, and abroad, to change the attitude of future generations, to the welfare of animals.
Soi Dog Canada, a non-for-profit group of volunteers, support the organization through independent fundraising, education, partner rescues, foster, and adoptions.
DON’T MISS SOI DOG MUTT MARCH
If you live near Richmond, BC, be sure to sign up for Mutt March
taking place this Sunday, June 2nd, in Garry Point Park.
Join us Sunday, June 9th, in Erindale Park, Mississauga, ON for Mutt March,
a day of fun for the whole family.
photos courtesy of Soi Dog Foundation