A year ago, The Phuket News reported despair in the Provincial Livestock Office over the condition of the dog pound. An official said at the time they were struggling to run the pound, and that people referred to it as a “dog’s jail”.
One year on, nothing has changed. The pound is still desperately underfunded and understaffed. It’s still a dog jail, only it’s worse.
The SDF, which is the island’s (and arguably Thailand’s) most active dog rescue NGO, sent an email this week to Governor Maitree.
In the email, Mr Dalley wrote, “I am compelled to bring an important matter to your attention concerning the conditions at the Phuket Dog Pound. The condition of the dogs kept there is deplorable and inhumane. This situation is totally unacceptable for Phuket’s reputation, particularly internationally.
“I have no doubt that if the conditions there are not immediately improved, the matter will become known internationally and seriously damage Phuket’s reputation as a tourist destination.”
Mr Dalley made an offer that has been made before: to take over the running of the pound.
“Soi Dog Foundation would consider taking over the dog pound under an agreement with your offices for the effective management of the stray dog population on Phuket.”
Whether the offer will be taken remains to be seen. Last time such an agreement was proposed it was decided that it would not be appropriate for an NGO to run a government establishment on government land.
A foreign woman who visits the pound regularly to try to look after dogs wrote recently to the Soi Dog Foundation saying that she recently rescued six desperately ill animals from the pound. They had gaping wounds, untreated, infested with maggots. Three had to be put down.
Last year it was estimated that B2.5 to 3.5 million a year was needed to run the pound.
“We got around B150,000 from Vichit Municipality this year. And, other good people have helped us by donating dog food. But, the budget situation is worse than last year,” Dr Werasit Phusiphairoj, Director of the Provincial Livestock Office, said.
“We can not do things the way Soi Dog do. They are a charitable foundation and can solicit money from abroad, which we can’t. They can publicise their work and meet good people who can help. We can’t.
“The problem [of strays] is never going to go away. The pound has to take care of homeless dogs in Phuket. We want to tell people in Phuket: get your pet neutered.”
The Phuket News visited the dog pound this week. Some of the 400 or so dogs are not much more than skin and bone. Signs prohibit the taking of photographs. Anyone taking out a camera is told not to take pictures without first calling Dr Werasit, for permission.
A staff member quickly detects the presence of a journalist. “What are you doing here?” she asks.
“Have you spoken with the doctor [Dr Werasit]?” Another explains, “Sometimes, strangers come here and then present stories that make the pound look bad.”
The staff urge The Phuket News reporter to leave. They are plainly worried about something.
Dr Werasit told The Phuket News, “I have to be concerned when people come into the dog pound because they do not understand the truth. We do not neglect the dogs as some foreigners or other believe.
“Some foreigner visitors came to the pound and take sick dogs for treatment outside. That is a good action.
“Some said they wanted to build accommodation for dogs at the pound. They signed a document saying they would do it, but they didn’t, so I really cannot trust them.”
This lack of trust between government officials and do-gooders – and some selective memory on both sides – has resulted in missed opportunities. Mr Dalley says that last year SDF offered to vaccine all dogs and treat their illnesses and wounds free.
He says Dr Weerasit at first agreed to the vaccinations but then a week later changed his mind.
Dr Weerasit’s memory is different. He says they met but that no such offer was made. He told The Phuket News this week he would be happy to have SDF provide free services, though everything would all have to be properly documented.
“If Soi Dog wants to help the dog pound with vaccines, birth control and so on, they should come to us with a formal proposal. Then I can talk with them and we can reach an understanding.”
But ultimately it all comes down to money. For anything to be done to help the dogs suffering inside, money – lots of it, in a constant stream – needs to be found.”