What can the street animal population in Thailand teach us about compassion and action? A lot. Each female soi (Thai for “street”) dog can reproduce up to 20 pups every year. The economic situation in Thailand made it impossible for locals to a) prevent a population explosion and b) give basic care to these animals, no matter how much they wished to. The obvious waves of suffering over the years inspired many expats to join forces with concerned locals. Together they have made progress to calm the situation. Yet it remains a big effort. Some may say the goal to ease the suffering of all dogs and cats is lofty, but it’s hard to imagine the country now without this aim!
A glance back in time helps bring the point home. Until 1999, out of desperation, dogs were poisoned en-mass by the government, at temples and other areas. Samui didn’t even have a vet at this point. This proved a nightmare for animals, residents and tourists alike, who watched dogs suffering and dying—from infections, accidents and poisoning—along the road and felt depressed and helpless.
Since that time, many shelters and animal welfare organizations have popped up around the country. In 1997 on Samui, animal enthusiast Brigitte Gom met Danny van Urk, who was helping dogs as much as she could on her own. Two years later, they opened a small clinic together. Today, that clinic has become a government-supported foundation, called Dog Rescue Center Samui (DRCS), with two branches on the island—in Baan Taling Ngam and Chaweng.
Countless dogs and cats have been helped at this clinic, and on a donation-only basis. This is an incredible feat considering that spaying or neutering an animal costs six times a Thai person’s daily wage. On average, DRCS spays/neuters six dogs a day and takes walk-in cases from anyone in need. They send someone to pick up an animal even if they have no owner.
They’ve made such an impact on the dog population that cats (food for dogs in Thailand) survived in higher numbers and now require and receive care at these organizations, too. The situation continues—mitigated out of passion, compassion and a burning desire within people to turn the tide from suffering to freedom and joy.
If you ever have a chance to stop and visit this center, see the dogs and witness the traffic in and out of it, you see how taking action and reducing suffering is not about a result so much as being present. Listening. Responding. For while this problem may never be totally solved, every life saved, valued or relieved from suffering bursts with gratitude and the chance they were given.
“Koh Samui should also become a paradise for dogs and cats, not one just for humans. Soi dogs can have happy lives on the beaches and in the resorts but they must have their rabies injections, live in stable packs, get medical treatment when required (eg after an accident), and be prevented from breeding.” ~ DRCS Website.
Pictured : The Baan Taling Ngam center is just a 15-minute easy bike ride from Samahita Retreat, which has supported DRCS financially since 2003.