Governor postpones stray dog round-up

PHUKET CITY: The Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO) has postponed indefinitely its plan to round up hundreds of stray dogs at island beaches and hold them at the Mid Road Dog Shelter in Thalang.

At a meeting chaired by Phuket Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura at Phuket Provincial Hall on January 13, the Governor called for better co-operation among government agencies and the island’s animal welfare groups. He said he wants everyone to work together to sterilize stray dogs as a way of ultimately reducing their population on the island.

“We are all working toward the same objective, which is to reduce the number of stray dogs,” he reminded the gathering.

The meeting was attended by PPLO chief Sunart Wongchawalit and animal rights activists including: Athena Cant and Dr Waraporn Namket of the Phuket Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Margot Homburg Park of the Soi Dog Foundation (SDF) and Suphaporn Last, Regional Manager of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

The Governor called the meeting at the request of the SDF and WSPA, following a poorly attended meeting of local government officials last month at which it was announced that strays would be rounded up at popular tourist beaches and taken to the shelter.

The beach round-up plan was later scrapped because the shelter already houses some 430 animals – not far from the 500-dog limit earlier imposed by the Governor.

Whereas the PPLO has the authority to deal with the stray dog problem, its efforts have been hampered by a lack of co-operation from local administrative bodies and by poor funding. The PPLO shelter, which has just a handful of staff, faces a chronic funding problem that makes buying food for the dogs an ongoing concern.

The SDF representatives told the meeting that the foundation has backers overseas who have indicated that they are willing to donate significant funds if the SDF either takes over operations at the Mid Road Dog Shelter from the provincial government, or establishes a shelter and clinic of its own. The group currently employs 15 permanent staff and eight part-time staff, some of whom would be relocated to the Mid Road Dog Shelter if the SDF were given permission to take over the facility, the meeting heard.

The SDF opposes killing stray dogs on the grounds that it is both inhumane and an ineffective way of dealing with the problem. The group, which has sterilized 7,739 stray cats and dogs in Phuket since setting up operations here in 2003, has the stated objective of “creating a healthy pack at Phuket’s hotels, resorts, parks, golf courses, schools and neighborhoods”.

The SDF’s plan to establish its own shelter suffered a setback recently when the landlord at its rented premises in Tambon Rassada denied permission for the necessary structural changes to the property in order for it to meet government standards for such a facility.

Despite its financial resources and shared goals, the SDF has received little support from the PPLO. Last year, K. Sunart suspended the foundation’s verbal permission to operate its clinic in Tambon Rassada on the grounds that it was not in compliance with Thai law.

K. Sunart cited the fact that the clinic was not registered in the name of a Thai veterinarian as the cause for the suspension, but later admitted that the action stemmed from comments on the SDF website critical of the PPLO shelter, and for which the SDF did not issue an official apology.

At the meeting, K Sunart said that it was difficult for his officials to work with the SDF field clinics because his agency was never told when they would take place. He also stressed that the exact financial obligation of animal welfare groups to the Mid Road Dog Shelter needs to be clearly established before they are allowed to set up operations there.

Before closing the meeting, the Governor announced he would set up and head a panel that would include representatives of the PPLO, WSPA, SDF and other animal welfare groups.

Phuket News
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