When we said we were going on holiday to the Far East, lots of people remarked about the treatment of animals out there. We too, also went on our trip with a slight air of dread about the things we may possibly see - especially with dogs.
However, having now spent a little time in both Bangkok & Phuket, do we really need to step down slightly from our very self elevated high pedestal?
Let's just stop & think about our nation for a moment before we start to pass judgement & comment on other nations. As we sit on our "Nation of Animal Lovers" high horse & put ourselves on some kind of ultimate animal welfare pedestal - we are in fact . . .
- A nation who has to have an organisation called The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals! That's right, an organisation designed to try & stop cruelty to animals. I don't think a day goes by where you don't see some kind of RSPCA story popping up on Facebook or Twitter about their work.
- We have a campaign running at the moment called Alfie's Law. The campaign states:- "This campaign will help to raise awareness of the current law in the UK regarding the senseless act of animal abuse & neglect that way too often results in death and how the sentences are not being used to the maximum. Too often minimum fines are given to people who inflict the most disguisting abuse and harm to our animals for which there should be NO EXCUSE" It's a campaign we have supported ourselves - however as a "Nation of Animal Lovers" - is it something that we should need to be campaigning for? Surely a Nation of Animal Lovers would not need to even consider the thought of people abusing animals? If you haven't seen it - Google Alfie's Law! (Sorry I can't post the link from the app!)
- How about the recent huge increase in dog thefts? The number of organised dog fighting rings there are in the UK? The huge number of dog's that are euthanised each year because irresponsible citizens of the "Nation of Animal Lovers" haven't bothered microchipping or tagging their dogs, so they get lost & can never be reunited? I saw a recent stat that shows around 6,000 dogs each year are euthanised due to being unable to locate the dogs owners!!
- What about dog breeding? I dread to think what the real number of Puppy Farms that are in existence in the UK, breeding puppies in dreadful conditions & causing real suffering amongst dogs. Look at the Pedigree Dogs Exposed programmes - does this really confirm that we are a Nation of Animal Lovers?
- Move away from dogs - How about the Badger Cull? A Government looking to press ahead with a Badger Cull despite strong opposition & in fact no real evidence to suggest that it will even work!! Fox hunting, battery farms - again the list is endless.
The list & examples could go on & on!! Are we really a NATION of animal lovers? I would suggest the evidence demonstrates otherwise.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think that animal abuse doesn't go on in the Far East & just as there is evidence of such things in our country, there is plenty of evidence to show that it happens in the Far East too - again with a whole host of animals.
We did have to walk quite quickly out of one area of the weekend Chatachuk market in Bangkok, as there was a stall which had pet puppies for sale. It looked like a real puppy farm type set up. Lots of different breeds of puppies all for sale as pets. To be fair, they looked healthy enough & the stall owner was playing & interacting with the pups, yet they were cramped in dog crates in the baking hot market stall. It's certainly not the type of place for a puppy. Photos were also banned!
But as a nation who has high number of puppy farms ourselves, are we really in a position of high authority to criticise these acts, when in fact closer to home, we really are no different in some respects?
I will let you in on my experiences & thoughts about the dog's we've come across in Thailand. I always stress that all of these Blogs are derived from 'real life' & everything contained therein is just my opinion based on real life experiences. I never proclaim it's the right or wrong opinion - it's just my view.
One thing you notice, is that there are dog's & cats trotting about quite freely in both Bangkok & Phuket - more so probably in Phuket.
However, what initially looked to us like 'stray' dogs upon our arrival, turned out to be dog's that people actually owned. Most of the dogs we saw also wore collars.
It seems that the dogs are family pets who are allowed, quite literally, the freedom of the land. The dogs are allowed to roam around the local streets & area of their own free will.
Again, I'm not naive enough to think that perhaps many don't get injured or killed walking around the streets, however I prefer not to think too much about this matter! Just as I avoid viewing the overload of sickening images & stories of abused animals/dogs that pop up on Twitter all the time. Simply because it breaks my heart when I see them!
What strikes me about dogs in Thailand is that they are, what we would say in the UK, as 'Sociable Dogs'. It's quite remarkable. You pass a dog in the street, yet he pays absolutely no attention to you whatsoever. You may get a glancing look & a little wag of the tail but very much in the main you are ignored. Humans are of no relevance to the dogs really.
At the same time, the Thai people are also respectful of the dogs. You don't see Thai people jumping out of the way, screaming because there is a dog nearby or 'off the lead'. They simply pass the dog as if he were another human walking along the street. The two live in complete harmony.
The people also have no overriding desire to 'say hello to the dog' or rush over to stroke & fuss the dogs either!!
A group of maintenance men were working down on the riverside in Bangkok, they had a dog with them & had brought along his dinner too! We got off the river taxi & saw the humans eating their dinner, with the dog eating his bag of dinner too.
The dog's in Phuket wander up & down Rawai beach, lying on the pavement or soaking up the sun on a bench. Again the dogs are ignored by the people passing them. The dogs also totally ignoring the people.
We visited the beach one day & 3 dogs came running across the sea stream, swam across the water & ran onto the beach. Again the dogs paid no interest in the humans whatsoever, the dogs were just frolicking between themselves. But, at the same time, not one human jumped up off the lounger screaming about dogs running around nor did anyone have the urge to go & interact with the dogs. Even young children just ignored them!
It's almost like they are part of the furniture here.
We have rented a beautiful Beach House in Rawai, and on the first day we had a tour of the area to show us where all the main essentials are - bank, shops, beaches, good food places etc etc. the lady who showed us around Pla, has 3 dogs. She said she wanted to have more when she retires.
When she is at work, the dogs stroll around her little house/office on the street, they potter around Rawai for the day, chill out under a tree on the Rawai Beach strip. In the evening, you go by her office & the dogs are chilling out with her family on the patio.
Pla came into a restaurant we were in on the beach front, a few minutes later 2 of her dogs wandered into the restaurant. No one batted an eyelid! The dogs weren't seeking out attention, weren't interfering with anyone. They were just there. The waitresses gave the dogs a little pat of the head & passing smile every now & again, in return the dogs rolled over on his back for a tummy rub!
The dogs are really friendly & if you go & stroke them etc they are your best friend!! As soon as Pla left the place though, the dogs weren't far behind her.
What really struck me about the dog's when they left the restaurant was that they actually left because they wanted to be with Pla. No lead, no treats, no command - just a bond between them which meant the dogs would ignore the people in the restaurant or bar and trot off to be with 'their mum'.
Yet despite the little 'attention' they receive from the general public, the dogs are all friendly. None of them of aggressive, none go round biting people or barking at people. The dogs even live in harmony with the cats! We saw 2 dogs just casually walk past a cat on the side of the road the other day - you almost saw a little acknowledgement between the dogs & cat too!!
Lots of Thai people take their dogs to the beach with them. We've seen a few families taking their dogs into the water with them, to cool down the dogs in the baking heat. You also see dog's lying patiently under their owners car next to the beach.
Again, no leads or treats to encourage the dog to walk with the owners. They just do it!
We have a bar literally next door to our Beach House. The lady [Annie] who owns it is lovely, we call her Mad Annie cause she's a nutter!! She jokes, laughs, takes the P & is just always really bubbly. She's got 3 cats & 2 dogs who all come to the bar. The 3 cats live at the bar. All of her pets are her babies. She kisses them, cuddles them & wraps them up at bedtime!
She even told us a story about the time she managed to sneak her dog 'Jonny' on holiday with her, managing to get the dog onto a plane & into a hotel. Amazing what you can get away with in Thailand!!
You also see motorbikes with side cart/cages attached where the dogs ride along the roads with their owners!
It really is quite remarkable, & it's a long way from the rather ignorant & stereotypical image we had somehow generated in our minds about how we may find dogs in Thailand.
In fact, one could argue that perhaps we too could take a leaf out of the Thai's approach to dogs. We have a massive issue with poorly socialised dogs, yet here in Phuket humans & dogs just seem to live life together. The dogs don't bother the humans, the cats or even themselves and the humans don't bother the dogs. That's not to say however, that the Thai people do not care - because they do. The dogs are their family, just like they are for us.
The only difference is, the dogs don't seem to need leads, treats or 'training' for them to behave as good 'sociable' dogs.
You don't see dogs fighting or dogs going around misbehaving, yet here they are completely loose & the dogs never have their owners at the end of a lead - perhaps that's where we are going wrong . . . .