The History Of The Soi Dog Foundation
Soi Dog was founded in 2003 by Margot Homburg Park and John and Gill Dalley. Phuket was growing rapidly at the time and the stray dog population was increasing at a fast pace. Witnessing the suffering endured by street animals John, Gill and Margot held Soi Dog’s first clinics utilizing volunteer vets from overseas. 2004 saw numerous clinics held around the island, the foundation began to grow. When no volunteer vets were available dogs would be taken to local vets, who provided low cost sterilization for the foundation.
2004 was an unlucky year for Soi Dog with Gill Dalley losing both legs from septicaemia contracted while rescuing a dog from a flooded water buffalo field. Less than a week after Gill’s release from hospital the Tsunami struck. Leone Cosens a major volunteer was killed while going to the aid of tsunami victims.
Gill's story can be seen on this video of the Singapore "Asian of the Year" program.
Many expected the Foundation to close after these tragedies but with the eyes of the world on the region over 50 volunteer vets arrived over the following 3 months and Soi Dog worked around the clock operating clinics not only on Phuket but throughout the region. At one point 3 clinics were running simultaneously and Gill was fully involved although wheel chair bound at that time. Soi Dog received several awards from amongst others; the Humane Society International and the prestigious Elizabeth Lewitt award.
WSPA who had organised a Tsunami appeal, agreed to finance the foundation’s sterilization program for the next 2 years, which resulted in Soi Dog being able to employ 2 full time vets, full time dog catchers and nursing staff. This saw a rapid increase in the number of sterilizations carried out.
In late 2005 the foundation (already officially registered in the Netherlands) became the first society of its type to be granted official foundation status in Thailand, and a principally Thai board was established. Late 2005 saw it necessary to look for land to establish a shelter as over 100 abandoned dogs were now living at its clinic in Phuket City.
In early 2006 Margot moved to Bangkok where she continues to educate and pursue a sterilization program there. Also in 2006 the Foundation established a clinic at the Government dog pound, and invested over 3,000,000 Thai Baht improving the conditions for the dogs there. The 100 dogs from the clinic in Phuket Town were moved to newly built runs there and managed by the foundation. In March 2008 the foundation was asked to find its own premises as the Government needed the land Soi Dog was using.
A large area was found in Mai Khao and construction began on building a new shelter which remains the headquarters of the foundation today.
Over the years Soi Dog’s sterilization and vaccination program has continued to grow. Soi Dog firmly believes that the only effective (and humane) solution in ending the needless suffering of street animals is through sterilization. It has been scientifically proven that once the “tipping point” of 75 to 80 percent of a stray population is sterilized significant declines in population begin to occur. Soi Dog has sterilised over 117,496 dogs and cats in Phuket, Bangkok, and elsewhere in Thailand.
A number of significant events occurred during 2011. 2011 began with Phuket being hit by a distemper epidemic. Through the generosity of Soi Dog’s supporters the epidemic was rapidly contained.
In mid-2011 Soi Dog completed the purchase of the land on which the shelter is located, securing its long term future.
3rd quarter of 2011 severe flooding struck Bangkok and many other areas of Thailand. Soi Dog joined with other groups such as Wildlife Friends of Thailand in rescuing and treating 1000's of animal victims of the floods. The outpouring of aid from new and existing supporters was amazing and enabled Soi Dog to fund rescue efforts for a large number of groups and organizations working in the flood waters.
Also in 2011 The Trade of Shame campaign began with the initial intent of ending the illegal export of an estimated 500,000 Thai dogs per year to Vietnam for use as dog meat. In the 15 years prior to 2011 only 2 arrests occurred. The trade was only illegal because of existing legislation banning the movement of unvaccinated dogs and thereby spreading rabies.
Soi Dog’s campaign covers 3 principle approaches. 1) The employment of undercover agents to hunt down smugglers and butchers and tanneries within Thailand. 2) To encourage and work with the governments of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in enforcing existing legislation. 3) Campaigning for stronger animal welfare laws in the region.
Thousands of dogs have been rescued and dozens of arrests made through the efforts of our under cover team.
In August 2013 The Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA), an alliance formed by Soi Dog Foundation with Animals Asia, Humane Society International and Change For Animals Foundation organized a conference with government representatives of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in Hanoi. This conference led to an agreement by all 4 countries to halt the trade based on the risk of spreading rabies throughout the region. A further conference in Bangkok in February 2014 reviewed the steps being taken.
In December 2014 Thailand introduced its first Animal welfare law which amongst other things makes it illegal to eat dog and cat meat. Soi Dog Foundation sits on the committee currently drafting full details of the law.
As of June 2015, the number of dogs being smuggled to Vietnam has been drastically reduced and Soi Dog is expanding our under cover team as smugglers try other methods to avoid the law. In addition, Soi Dog and ACPA are now expanding efforts to Vietnam itself where an estimated 5 million dogs per year (mostly stolen pets) continue to be consumed.
In 2013 Soi Dog found that many dogs rescued from the trade were dying of disease in overcrowded livestock shelters. With no government budget to care for them properly, Soi Dog supporters again rallied and a huge complex of shelters was built on government owned land in Buriram. As well as financing the cost of these shelters, Soi Dog provides all the food and medication needed to keep the dogs healthy whilst efforts are made to find homes for as many as possible.
Sterilization remains the key to Soi Dog’s efforts to reduce the suffering of Thailand’s millions of stray dogs.
In 2012 with the support of Dogs Trust International an ambitious mobile clinic campaign began in Phuket visiting every district in the province. Completed in May 2015 over 80,000 dogs and cats have now been sterilized and the number of stray dogs in the province is falling rapidly. Discussions are underway with Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to commence a similar program there with the aim of sterilizing 80,000 dogs per year. (Soi Dog recently completed a population study in the capitol that indicates approximately 640,000 free roaming dogs). Soi Dog Foundation opened a small clinic in Bangkok in 2012 which sterilizes around 4,000 dogs per year mainly dogs brought in by volunteer feeders, but to have any impact numbers must be drastically increased. In addition, the Phuket mobile team are now working in neighboring provinces, and the Foundation is acting as a consultant for a planned program in the Myanmar capitol of Yangon where stray dogs are currently controlled with poison.
In 2014 construction began on what will be the largest and most modern hospital in Asia dedicated to treating stray dogs. (A cat hospital was completed in 2013). Completion is expected in 2016. The number of animals requiring treatment has grown considerably and the current facilities simply cannot cope. Over 100 dogs are receiving treatment at any one time.
A schools education program is also underway with the aim of changing attitudes to animals generally.
Because of our supporters Soi Dog has come a long way since 3 retirees decided to try and do something to alleviate the suffering of the stray animals here. As of June 2015 Soi Dog is the largest organization in Asia helping stray animals. It currently employs over 50 full time staff, (vets, shelter staff, animal welfare officers etc.), as well as its undercover teams. In addition, many volunteers both full and part time help both in Thailand and overseas, all bound by a common goal to help those who have nobody else to turn to.
Soi Dog's financial accounts are independently audited and submitted to the Thai Government each year. Soi Dog's charity registration numbers are: Thailand: Phor.Gor. 39/2548, registration number USA: 27-1600444 registration number Australia: 58982568831, charity registration number in Holland: 37120202, charity registration number in France: W332011412, charity registration number in the UK:1145142