Dog pound 'should be closed'
Phuket may have a reputation for being a tourist paradise that attracts millions of tourists from around the world every year. But for stray dogs in the government pound, it’s more like a living hell.
Saturday 14 May 2011, 03:28AM
The pound, set up seven years ago to try to reduce the island’s stray dog population humanely, is on the verge of collapse, and the dogs are the ones to suffer. Some officials believe it’s time to close the facility down.
The Phuket News recently received an email from German tourists who visited the pound. Attached were shocking photographs.
In their email the Germans said they found many dogs diseased or injured, and many more emaciated. There were empty dog food bags in the enclosures.
Most shocking of all, they came across a dog with a huge hole in its skin writhing with maggots – apparently untreated. That dog was later taken to the Soi Dog Foundation facility in Mai Khao but by this time it was too late. In spite of the foundation’s efforts, the animal died.
Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO) Chief Sumeth Methasart admitted the dog pound is now facing “a lot of problems”.
He told The Phuket News that this was due to the rising number of dogs, from about 200 when the pound was established seven years ago to about 400 dogs now, compounded by a shrinking budget for taking care of them.
“Most strays originally belonged to people who loved them when they were puppies but who abandoned them when they grew up, leaving them with no care and no food, and without sterilising them. The dogs either escaped or wandered off in search of food, creating problems everywhere,” he said.
The dog pound was set up after the then-governor, Pongpayome Vasaputi, banned local authorities from shooting or poisoning strays. But in the face of continuing complaints from tourists that the many strays posed a health risk, with some of the more vicious ones being a danger to tourists, he had to come up with an alternative solution.
The governor then involved all the government departments concerned in an effort to find an answer.
Discussion resulted in the establishment of the pound on three rai of Forestry Department land in Bang Khanun, with local authorities being responsible for rounding up strays and bringing them to the pound.
The PPLO was made responsible for running the pound, supposedly with funding from local authorities.
For the first couple of years, dogs that were captured and sent to the pound received reasonable care, with the budget usually being sufficient to provide enough food and medical attention to keep the caged animals healthy.
But Phuket has far more than 200 strays – estimates put the number at 11,000 to 13,000 – and the complaints continued to come in; complaints of mangy or vicious dogs on beaches, in public areas or in the grounds of the island’s 40-plus temples.
The local authorities, when they received complaints, simply caught the dogs and took them to the pound – more and more of them – all to be cared for on the same 200-dog budget. Already, by 2005, the pound was struggling to source enough food and was appealing for donations.
Officials declined to speak on the record for fear of trouble with their bosses, but the picture they painted is a grim one, with no hope of improvement.
One explained that he believes the island’s stray dog problem cannot be solved simply by having a dog pound. Worse, he said, people now think of the pound as a sort of trash bin; when they don’t want to take care of a dog anymore they simply dump it in the pound.
As a result, the pound has stopped accepting dogs because it simply cannot take any more.
Two years ago an awareness campaign was launched, titled “Phuket: no stray dogs and rabies-free by 2017.” Local authorities were urged at meetings across the island to help support the pound and reduce the numbers of strays generally.
The PPLO urged local authorities to issue regulations controlling the number of pets that any family might own, with penalties for those who did not take good care of their pets or abandoned them in public areas.
It also proposed microchip implants for all owned dogs and mandatory owner registration, along with free vaccinations and sterilisations. It also pleaded for funding for a province-wide stray dog vaccination and sterilisation campaign.
The pleas fell on deaf ears.
Now, the pound is collapsing under the weight of dogs, worsened by shrinking funding. One official said, “We have to admit that the pound is now unable to bear the expense of looking after all the dogs.”
The numbers are telling. Calculating at the near-starvation minimum of 300 grams of food per dog per day, using the cheapest food that costs B38 a kilo, each dog costs about B11.40 a day to feed.
Add to that the wages for the three full-time staff, which average about B2.50 per day per dog, and the cost of medicine at about B1 per dog per day, that means that each dog costs B14.90 a day to look after. In other words, with 400 dogs, the cost is almost B2.2 million a year.
But even with full funding from local authorities – theoretically around B100,000 a year from each of 18 bodies on the island – there would be an annual shortfall of B400,000.
However, now that the pound has stopped accepting any more dogs many local authorities – reasoning that the pound is no longer somewhere they can deposit strays they catch in their areas – have reduced or completely suspended their funding.
One official believes the pound should be closed. “It’s not working. It should be shut because it causes many more problems. It has become a place where dogs suffer.”
Staff have been reduced to begging for food for the animals from pet shops. Another potential source of food, left-overs offered by hotels and restaurants, cannot be tapped because the pound has no pick-up truck, no driver and no money for fuel.
A vet from the PPLO continues to visit twice a week (his salary comes from a separate budget) and the staff try to do their best to treat sick dogs until they recover or die; even gravely ill dogs are never put down.
Asked about the dog riddled with maggots, one official said, “I had not heard about this. It may be that it had just been brought to the pound, already in a bad condition. It takes time for major injuries like that to be cured – during that time the tourists may have seen it and taken a photo of it.”
The official added, “We are struggling to help these dogs. If anyone wishes to help, please adopt a dog or donate food; one-time donations or regular gifts will help us a lot.”
* The Phuket dog pound is in Bang Khanoon forest, on the Thepkrasattri Rd not far from Baan Muang Mai. Donations of food should be made at the pound.
There is no charge for adopting a dog, but those who wish to do so should first call the PPLO at 076 216 934. For more information visit (Thai only): dld.go.th/pvlo_hkt