No dogs or homeless humans allowed in Bangkok historic zone
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2003:
BANGKOK, PHUKET, Thailand– Street dogs and homeless humans
are barred from the Rattanakosin historical district in central
Bangkok, city governor Samak Sundaravej declared on August 1.
Issuing an edict that would have excluded the Buddha and his
followers from an area famed for its Buddhist temples, Samak spoke
at a Thai Foreign Ministry meeting held to discuss plans for
beautifying Bangkok before the October 21-22 Asia Pacific Economic
Said Samak, according to Supoj Wancharoen of the Bangkok
Post, “Our city is not Calcutta. We must not allow such an eyesore.
They [street dogs and homeless people] must not be there at all
times, not just during the APEC summit.”
Continued Supoj, “A city hall source said the Livestock
Department has set up a shelter in Sa Kaew for some 1,000 stray
dogs,” at estimated cost for feeding and vaccination of $240,000 per
This confirmed earlier reports from Agence France-Press, the
Malaysia Star, and The Nation of Bangkok, except that all of the
previous reports agreed that budget would provide lifelong care to
3,000 dogs. The estimated street dog population of the neighborhoods
involved was 3,000 when surveyed in 1999, or about 3% of the total
estimated street dog population of Bangkok, but the numbers may have
been reduced since 1999 by muncipal efforts to sterilize and
vaccinate the dogs, often interrupted by running out of money.
Many of the dogs are highly adoptable, by U.S. and European
standards. An organization called Soi Dog Rescue, formed by British
expatriate Sheridan Conisbee, has recently flown selected temple
dogs to adoptors in the Netherlands and occasionally the U.S. The
real value of her project is not so much that it places dogs in homes
abroad as that in Thailand it enhances the prestige of adopting a
street dog instead of buying a purebred.
King Bhumibol Aduladej has urged the adoption of street dogs
since adopting his own, Tongdaeng, in 1998. Twenty-five former
street dogs being trained for police drug-detection duty at the
King’s recommendation collectively scored 97.9 on their midterm
exams, Bangkok metropolitan police commissioner Lieutenant General
Damrongsak Nilkuha told The Nation newspaper.
The largest street dog population in Thailand reputedly
inhabits the temple district of Phuket, far to the south, on the
Malay Peninsula. Phuket governor Vasaputi Pongpayome proposed
keeping the estimated 11,500 to 15,000 local street dogs at a
care-for-life sanctuary to be situated on the Bang Kanoon forestry
plantation in Thalang.
The initial proposed project budget, later doubled, was just $48,000.
“A request has been made to the national government for the
land. The project would be developed by the Phuket Provincial
Administration Organization, which would later assign management to
the local Tambon Administration Organization,” the Phuket Gazette
Linda Wells, cofounder of the Phuket charity Dogs In
Distress, warned that the scheme was underfunded, and that the dogs
would fight if confined in too little space.
Thai temples have doubled as animal shelters since Buddhism
came to Thailand about 2,500 years ago.
“Temples are thought to be shelters for all kinds of poor
things, ranging from homeless people to stray dogs, and monks
cannot refuse those asking for help,” an anonymous monk at the Wat
Luang Phor Chalong temple told Achata Chuenniran and Onnucha Hutasing
of the Bangkok Post.
The monk’s temple houses about 40 dogs, Achata and Onnucha
wrote. After visitors complained that the dogs scared them and
soiled the temple, the dogs were kept in cages for a time, but
European and American tourists objected to that, so now the dogs
again roam freely.
At the nearby Wat Kosit Wiharn temple monk Phra Narong looks
after 20 dogs and 20 feral cats.
The 221-year-old Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok,
with about 50 resident feral cats as of June 2003, installed remote
surveillance cameras to try to discourage abandonments. The head
monks at other famous temples are reportedly considering similar
measures, but some have reservations.
“Villagers are not to blame for leaving animals in temples,”
Phra Narong told Achata and Onnucha. “They may think kind people
will bring food to them here.”
The Department of Livestock claims to provide anti-rabies
vaccination for 10,000 Phuket street dogs per year. This would
indicate a vaccination rate of 67% to 86%, sufficient to prevent the
spread of rabies epidemics, but Phuket public health director
Wanchai Sattayawuthiwong estimated that about 100 people require
post-exposure rabies vaccination each year after suffering dog bites.
The monks get help from Wells and other western expatriates.
“I have adopted a wat, the Thai term for Buddhist temples,
which is now home to over 100 feral cats and dogs,” rescuer Becky
Scott wrote recently to the Best Friends Animal Society. “People
dump unwanted animals here, hoping the monks will feed them, but
the monks have little food, as they rely on alms, all food being
given to them. I have been feeding the animals twice a week,” she
said, “giving each animal vaccinations, treating them for
infections and mange, and taking each one for sterilization” by Dogs
“When I adopted this wat in March 2002, there were about 45
animals,” Scott continued. “When there were 45 or so animals, they
were easily handled. Now the space is not enough for so many, and a
core group of dogs run in a pack, killing kittens and attacking
puppies, older dogs, and sometimes people. The monks believe it is
worse when I am there,” possibly because the aggressive dogs
associate Scott with food and try to drive off or kill rivals.
Circa July 1, hunger apparently drove dogs living at the Bua
Kwan Temple in Nonthaburi to snatch the barbequed chicken lunch
purchased by vegetable vendor Warayuth Songsilp, 47. Warayuth
complained to a monk, who disclaimed responsibility. Irate,
Warayuth left, returned with five bowls of poisoned chicken, and
killed 48 dogs, he confessed on July 10.
The poisonings were initially blamed on Nonthaburi municipal
council chair Pairoj Buppha, who had asked that the temple be
cleansed in honor of his son’s forthcoming ordination as a monk.
Then, Warayuth reportedly said, he felt guilty.
At Wat Nang Hong in Nakhon Nayok province Buddhist nun Kesorn
Wong-prasert, 73, feeds more than 100 dogs, 50 cats, and 100
chickens. The big problem there, abbot Phra Atikan Atthaporn
Sikha-sapho told The Nation in June 2003, is that “Some dogs have
leprosy, which is very hard to cure,” and kills about a dog a day
by his reckoning.
But the disease is not leprosy, known to occur only in
humans and armadillos, and then rarely. It may be severe sarcoptic
or demodectic mange. It may look like leprosy, however, still a
familiar and much feared ailment in Southeast Asia.