Rescue Paws is an animal rescue program in Thailand which takes in and rehabilitates stray dogs suffering from poor health and abuse.
TravelBud recently caught up with our partner company in Thailand to discuss their latest non-profit initiative, Rescue Paws. XploreAsia are TravelBud’s trusted and reputable partners in Thailand who assist in preparing Westerners to teach English in Thailand through their highly respected TESOL/TEFL courses and job placements throughout Asia.
TravelBud applicants have been lending a helping hand through a great cause which XploreAsia has been heading up in Thailand. In case you did not already know, Thailand, along with many other Southeast Asian countries, faces a devastating problem by which stray dogs roam the streets, are abused, and are in significant need of help the human race.
We thought it was necessary to interview Jaco Kleinloog, the head of this animal rescue program, as well as colleague Tyler Haines on the severity of the issue as well as what people can do to help.
What brought about XploreAsia’s involvement with Rescue Paws?
It was an initiative we had always wanted to get to started, and it was only when circumstances were perfect that we were able to begin the program, which only started out as a street dog feeding program, but with the help of generous donors and volunteers we have been able to blossom into a flexible organization capable of daily tasks like feeding, to more skilled tasks like surgery, wound care, and medicine administration.
Why is there such a widespread problem with homeless dogs? Which factors have caused the problem?
That’s a great question. One of the main problems is because Thailand is a majority Buddhist country and in that lies a set of values that pretty much dictate life as a whole for most Thais. One of these values is that the life of any living thing cannot be taken away from it by people regardless of the circumstances, and so euthanasia, or the lack thereof, is quite a problem when dealing with dogs beyond the brink of saving. In conjunction with that, de-sexing and population control and the task of carrying that out is a problem too big for government organizations to cope with, leaving an imbalance, and subsequently, the population of Thailand’s street dogs is continually on the rise.
What is Rescue Paws doing to help alleviate the problem in Thailand?
Everything in our power, from daily feeding, to minor surgery, to wound care, to sterilization and vaccinations, to general love and attention. We have the ability to cover all of the major focus areas like treating the wounded, de-sexing, vaccinating and sterilizing, and feeding, but budget is a major constraint with regards to purchasing medical supplies and this severely limits our capabilities in the field. Although our team is small, we have animal care and experience, and we’re getting better at it day by day.
Is the stray dog issue related only to Thailand or other parts of the world as well?
We have no doubt that there are problems like this in other parts of the world, but to what extent, we’re unsure. Thailand and Southeast Asia as a whole is notorious for its stray animal problems as well as the dog meat and exotic animal trade, so problems here probably far exceed those in the western world.
Does Rescue Paws assist any other animals in need of support?
Our major focus is on dogs and their plight, as this is by far the largest stray animal problem in Thailand, but we’re by no means limited to just dogs and we have many times in the past treated other animals. When it comes to wildlife, I think we’ll have to wait and see how the program develops, but we can’t rule out any possibilities so early in the project’s history.
What state are the animals found in before Rescue Paws takes them in?
This varies, but for the most part many of the animals suffer from severe mange, meaning many of them are bald and covered in open wounds and infected skin, which looks really awful but is in fact easy and affordable to treat. Other common cases involve animals that have been hit by trains and cars and require surgery or wound care which tends to be some of the more expensive and difficult issues to address. Malnourishment and abuse is also common leaving dogs frail, weak and injured. Another serious issue is that of Distemper, a debilitating virus that can easily spread amongst dogs and is rather expensive to treat.
What process is involved in terms of finding these dogs, taking them in and caring for them?
Currently we use a third party’s facilities as a recovery centre and also a place to conduct minor surgery, but pretty soon they’ll be closing down and we’ll be left without a rehab facility. We’re in the process of raising funds to build a rehab centre on the site of Buddhist monastery in an area kindly allocated to us by the resident monks, so hopefully we won’t be set back too long before we can continue our operation as usual. As for monitoring and surveying, we have built up a database of the animals that we treat, in which we include everything from their current health condition, to what drugs they need and much more. We monitor and care for several large packs around Hua Hin, with the average number per pack being around 100 dogs. Our largest pack is somewhere in the range of 180 dogs, and the average number of animals we’re treating at any given time is in the area of 100.
How does Rescue Paws care for and raise the dogs’ standard of living and what happens to the dogs once they have been rehabilitated?
Generally we would start with the usual treatments such as daily feeding, vaccinations, sterilizations, and de-sexing to ensure that the dog is both nourished, healthy, and is not going to add to the population problem. What happens to a dog once they have been rehabilitated depends on the circumstances surrounding them. The lucky ones who have been treated, are healthy and happy, and are young are usually up for adoption. We hold adoption drives at least once a month, but unfortunately very few animals get adopted. Other dogs call the street home, and their families are their street pack, so we tend to integrate them back into their “families”.
Where are the dogs rehabilitated and cared for?
As I mentioned above, we currently use a third party’s facilities as a makeshift theatre and rehabilitation centre, but they will soon be closing down, and so we have had to come up with an alternative and build our own rehab centre. This will be costly and will set back the current rescue project significantly, but if we can raise the funds needed to build the rehab then we’l be able to treat more animals and treat them better than we currently can. We already have a site on which to build an area that forms part of a local Buddhist monastery which the resident monks have kindly let us use.
Who assists XploreAsia with their Rescue Paws program and how can others get involved?
Currently the majority of financial support comes from a Rescue Paws founding partner, Global Work and Travel Co. In conjunction with that they are also our main supplier of trained volunteers. Anyone can help, whether in the form of volunteering your time and skills, or providing financial support for which we have a dedicated Paypal account. If anyone is interested then they can find out more on our webpage or the latest project page: Rescue Paws or Help us build a rehab centre
TravelBud urges those who can to assist our partner company raise the necessary funds to build the new rehab centre!
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