The sanctuary’s 200-plus staff pass through the gates each morning to the sound of excitable barks, howls and meows from the resident dogs and cats. This creature chorus can mean only one thing: it’s breakfast time. Soi Dog distributes food not only to the 1,100-plus animals at the sanctuary but also to local feeders and other shelters across Thailand, including government-run facilities. This means purchasing approximately 20 tons of dog and cat food each month at a cost of nearly B1 million.
As the animals lap up the last of their morning meal, Soi Dog’s volunteers arrive by songthaew, ready to walk the dogs around the green grounds of the sanctuary and fuss over the felines in the cattery. Soi Dog welcomed a record 881 volunteers from all over the world last year, some spending days at the sanctuary, others months. Their socialisation of the animals is vital in preparing them for adoption.
Socialisation continues back at the “runs”, where the dogs live in groups of around 25 under the careful watch of keepers and carers. Each of Soi Dog’s 29 runs houses a different doggie demographic, from puppies to teenagers, to senior and special needs dogs, to dogs rescued from the horrific dog meat trade. There are also behaviourally challenging dogs who the Behaviour and Enrichment Team work closely with to help them overcome their shyness or aggression.
Over at Soi Dog’s purpose-built hospitals, it’s almost as busy as in the runs, with new patients constantly being admitted. These sick and injured animals are either brought in by kind members of the public or picked up by Soi Dog’s animal rescue officers or Community Outreach Team. Recent expansions mean the veterinary teams have the specialist equipment and state-of-the-art facilities needed to treat everything from road traffic injuries to poisonings, skin diseases and cruelty cases.
Over 100 animals are neutered and vaccinated at the hospitals every day too, as part of Soi Dog’s “Catch, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return” (CNVR) programme. Since 2003, over 380,000 animals – 119,542 of those last year alone – have passed through the programme in Thailand, meaning Soi Dog is far and away neutering and treating more animals than any other organisation in the world.
Phuket is Soi Dog’s best example of the effectiveness of CNVR.
The implementation of the programme here has reduced the stray dog population by over 90% and has been a significant contributing factor in the island reporting just one confirmed case of rabies in 24 years. With the situation in Phuket under control, Soi Dog is able to reach out to other parts of Thailand. The sight of Soi Dog vans zipping around Bangkok, Nakhon Si Thammarat and beyond is now nothing unusual.
As awareness of Soi Dog increases, so too does the demand on its assistance and resources. The Phuket sanctuary is expanding to meet this demand, with a dedicated cat hospital, six community runs, two blocks of individual kennels and a Visitor and Volunteer Centre opening last year. And near the entrance to the sanctuary, an Isolation Unit and an Education Centre are beginning to take shape.
While Soi Dog works hard to make the sanctuary as pleasant as possible for the animals, the goal is to keep them there for the minimum amount of time and instead adopt them into a loving home of their own. Last year, Soi Dog found homes for 944 animals – 675 dogs and 269 cats – both here in Thailand and overseas, with popular destinations including the USA, Canada and Europe.
And so the sun sets on another busy day at the sanctuary. The gates are locked and the resident dogs and cats are settled for the night, affording us a quiet moment to reflect on the remarkable growth of Soi Dog. From a disused restaurant in Phuket Town to a 14-rai sanctuary in Mai Khao. From neutering and vaccinating 175 animals in 2003 to 119,542 in 2019. From three co-founders to over 300 staff. From strength to strength.
With no government funding, this was only made possible by donations from like-minded animal lovers around the world. While it’s disappointing that only 5% of funds are raised here in Thailand, where the benefit of Soi Dog’s work is felt the most, the organisation remains grateful for all the support it receives to carry out its many and varied operations which come at a cost of around B30 million each month.
To see what B30 million does for the dogs and cats of Thailand, visit the sanctuary for an interactive guided tour. With your support, Soi Dog can make 2020 the best year yet for even more stray animals in need.
Soi Dog Foundation is located at 167/9 Moo 4, Soi Mai Khao 10, Mai Khao, Thalang, 83110. Tours run 9:30am, 11am, 1:30pm and 2:30pm Monday-Friday and 10am on Saturday. visit www.soidog.org