Margot Homborg Park, along with John and Gill Dalley, started Soi Dog in 2003 after noticing the spiraling soi dog (street dog) population in Phuket. They initially recruited traveling volunteers and local vets to help sterilize stray dogs and cats at pop-up clinics.
After a solid first year, the organization faced potential disaster in 2004. Gill lost both her legs to septicemia, after contracting a bacterial infection while rescuing a dog in a flooded buffalo field, shortly before the Indian Ocean Earthquake struck. Gill’s condition, along with the devastation caused during the tsunami that followed didn’t stop Soi Dog’s progress, though; it only emboldened the organization’s cause.
From shaky beginnings, Soi Dog has continued to grow and deal with the issue of stray dogs living in Phuket and beyond. Or trying to live. Space comes at a premium in any area that has a expanding population of local residents and visitors. Somewhere in between finding room for people, holiday resorts and new buildings, animals need to fit in with the urbanization process. Abuse, neglect and the rapid spread of disease are all common ripple effects that burden the life of the street dogs scattered around Thailand – and every other quickly developing city.
Sterilization and vaccination are their top priority, but not their only concerns. Soi Dog is actively countering the illegal dog meat trade between Thailand and Vietnam – a situation that is as baffling and cruel as it is sad. The work they do is remarkable and this is not supposed to be a sob story. (Take a look at some of the most amazing before/after cases here to find out why they do what they do.)
To gain some more insight into the organization and learn about the ins and outs of running an animal rescue shelter this size, we spoke to managing director Greg Tulley.
What does an average day look like for people working at Soi Dog?
Many Soi Dog staff work at our shelter in Phuket, in southern Thailand. We care for more than 400 dogs and cats at our shelter, and more animals in need of medical treatment come to the shelter every day. We help a lot of animals who suffer from terrible injuries, often because people abused them.
Some of us work to stop the dog meat trade. Since the situation regarding the trade is unpredictable, this work varies widely. It can involve planning meetings with high level government officials, arranging raids on illegal slaughterhouses and butcher shops, trying to determine the dog smugglers’ next moves, ensuring dogs rescued from the trade receive adequate care, and more.
Have you managed to address the dog meat trade on a national level and are you getting enough attention to really make a difference?
Our campaign to end the cruel and illegal dog meat trade has made a very noticeable impact. A couple years ago, tens of thousands of dogs each year were smuggled from Thailand to Vietnam in horrific conditions to the cruelly slaughtered for their meat. Now we can find virtually no evidence of this international trade, which is a great success.
You can find background about the dog meat trade in Thailand at www.tradeofshame.org/. It is a multi million dollar business that continues because it is profitable.
There are still domestic dog meat trades within Thailand and within Vietnam. Soi Dog Foundation is now putting increasing pressure on the dog meat traders in Thailand, including by arranging raids and by putting up thousands of billboards that say the dog meat trade is illegal and ask people to call a hotline if they see dog smuggling activity. In collaboration with other animal welfare organizations, we have expanded our work to Vietnam and South Korea.
How do dogs respond to life at the foundation after being rescued?
Most dogs and cats at our shelter do quite well, considering they were free roaming street dogs or abandoned pets. We do our best to put each dog in a run that is suitable for it (for example, we have a puppy run, a shy dog run, a small dog run, and old dog runs) and integrate it with the other dogs. However, almost all of the cats and dogs at our shelter would be happier if they are adopted into a permanent home, so we actively encourage adoptions to people around the world. We can send animals to almost any major airport.
I see on your Facebook feed that people can adopt dogs in other countries. What do they need to do get through the adoption process?
People who are interested in adopting can read about some of the dogs who need new homes, and can contact Cristy at email@example.com or fill out the form here to learn more. Our adoptions staff will be happy to match people up with the right dog or cat for them. We take care of the process of sending cats and dogs overseas; the adopter only needs to pick up their new best friend at an airport. Soi Dog doesn’t charge an adoption fee, but we do ask adopters to pay for the travel costs and necessary expenses for travel.
Soi Dog completely depends on donations from people around the world to continue our work. People can donate online or by PayPal or credit card, and we accept donations by bank transfer, cheque, and cash. Support is urgently needed for the dogs and cats at our shelter, and to increase our campaign to eliminate the dog meat trade.
How can people donate or volunteer?
We welcome volunteers at our shelter in Phuket. People can come for days, weeks, or months, to walk dogs and socialize puppies and kittens. Since almost all of the animals at our shelter are former street animals or were abused, this is a vital role for teaching the animals to have enough trust in people that they can be adopted and live in homes.
*These Walking Blues would like to thank Greg and the Soi Dog Foundation for doing this interview.